The English Teachers’ Association [NSW] •

Issue 1March 2004 •

m E T A p h o


While I Live , the first novel in The Ellie Chronicles by John


Fil texts: The Age of Innocence and The Truman Show

More resources for the Area Of Study (Journeys)

Hamlet with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Cultural Values in Young Adult Fiction: Baily’s Bones, Bridge

to Terabithia

An Interview with Seamus Heaney at his home in Dublin

Sir Richard Eyre’s BBC production of King Lear

Teen Romance Texts and the ‘Real’ Curriculum

The poetry of Peter Skrzyneckiand Komninos

mETAphor Issue 1 2004 page1


Ways of Living – Komninos A module for Standard English HSC

by Katherina Lathouras Knox Grammar School

‘Ways of living’ encompasses so many aspects of

our contemporary society that in fact the rubric

challenges us with possibly too much to consider.

Komninos’ poetry for some seems difficult, for the

close analysis of the text can be challenging for the

Standard student who cannot grasp the impact of the

use of lower case, the lack of punctuation, the use of

free verse and the colloquial approach to language.

Much of the poet’s approach is uncommon and

foreign for some Standard students, but it can be

explained as a way that the poet challenges the

perception of its audience and of how a poet writes.

For the Standard cohort who hates the ‘boring’

conventions of poetry, this may be a good option, but

be prepared for the fear of there being little to work

with because of the poems length and the fact these

poems do not fit the conventions of ‘poetry’. In fact,

the poems hold a lot of connections with its audience.

The poet explores subjects that the audience can

relate to in many ways because they too, at some

time, have probably experienced it.

It is far better to approach the module with the rubric

than the text in this case (in the first instance).

Breaking down the rubric into the following key points

provides the direction for the following teaching and

learning strategies.

The rubric states that students should consider:

ways of living in contemporary society

possibilities and choices for different ways

of living

recreations enjoyed shaped by personal,

social, historical and cultural contexts

• respond and compose to a range of texts

mETAphor Issue 1 2004 page60

• demonstrate the different ways of living which

are communicated and values

• examine features of texts

knowledge, attitudes and beliefs relating to

ways of living

(English Stage 6, Prescriptions: Area of Study

Electives and Texts, HSC 2004 & 2005, p.15)

Introductory Activity

Depending on the strengths and/or weaknesses of

the cohort, there are two activities that could assist

Standard students gain a sound knowledge of the

different ways of living’ that have impacted on the

Australian community. These activities would focus

on the first three points of the broken rubric.

Activity A

In groups research the ways of living in contemporary

society. Research each decade starting from the

1920’s (post World War I is a good starting point).

Areas of focus:

-housing and/or accomodation










-consumer products

Each group presents to the class, either in period

clothing or provide a piece from the period that

remains in the class through the duration of their

course and a visual cue to be later used as a study

artefact/text. A handout is to be submitted by each

group with primary evidence or secondary evidence

of the time. This can then be the starting point for

related materials for the unit of work (Link crosscurricular

work with Modern History students or ask

them to think back to their Stage 5 History core work).

Activity B

Using the following table, the student interviews three

different people who have lived through three different

decades in Australia, and relate their experiences to

historical research that the have discovered.

Context Decade:

Interviewee 1


Interviewee 2


Interviewee 3





Students are to write a report on each interviewee

and relate their personal recollections to the social,

historical and cultural possibilities and choices for

different ways of living.

These activities could also be used as assessment

task. If being used as assessment, it would work best

to consider the rubric points of responding and

composing in a range of texts, and demonstrating

the different ways of living and how they are

communicated and valued.

Outcomes 6, 8 and 9 could be used for these


Each activity requires the students to engage with

the focus of the rubric, ‘Ways Of Living’.

The activites have the cohort delves ‘hands on’ into

the focus assisting their general knowledge of the

module. This will assist their ability to respond to and

compose and demonstrate how different ways of

living are communicated and valued in the core texts

and the related materials that they have thus far. Once

the texts are studied and related materials are further

developed, the last two rubric points can be worked


The Text Komninos the poet

What is interesting about the study of this poet is the

ability for outcome 5 to be assessed during this

moduleanalysising the effect of technology and

medium on meaning. Komninos is a performance/

cyber poet. Resources are available on the Internet.

The poet has his own website where his poetry is


Far more useful in the classroom, is that each poem

set for study, excluding ‘consumer rap’ has an audio

reading by Komninos.These are accessible through The links have been

provided next to the titles of the poems set for study

in this module. What becomes apparent after this

point is that the persona of the poem is often the

poet – but it should not be taken that it always is.

life in melbourne’


The poet moves through three stages of how

Melboune ‘lives’. There are three distinctive ways of

living for the city:

Tourism – the persona of the poem highlights several

landmarks that identify Melbourne, “the big ram/the

dog on the ticker box/the schizophrenic city/ned kelly’s

last stand.”

Changing faces of a/the city – the persona explores

the changes to suburbs it grew up in, “to find carlton

cappuccino coffee comfort/ and the continuing

cavalcade of/ manicured madonnas marching the

streets/ pursued by battallions of italian stallions.”

Family links – the persona ends its visit discussing

its responses to its family, left behind after its

relocation, “to find myself answering the same

question/ to each family member I met/ yes I’m living

in sydney now/ yes my work is going well/ yes the

kids are growing/ and no it’s not time I cut my hair.”

Each key area can be defined by how the persona

considers Melbourne as a tourist trap, or their

changing face through population and the links

through family and friends, “coming home again/

driving through months and years and decades”.

Komninos looks forward to his return to Melbourne,

my week has been/a blast into the past/ a fast drive

past”. It not only considers all the changes in the city

physical, it makes mention of how individuals change,

to find the same faces in the same places in the

same spaces./ to find lovers that once sucked and

bit and kissed and licked/ sitting/ sipping tea politiely/

across café tables/ discussing art/ and their latest

big relationship/”.

That second, or last stanza, relates to the composer’s

mETAphor Issue 1 2004 page61


discussion of its life in Sydney. It distinctly sets apart

his life in Melbourne and its changing face to his

choice to live in Sydney and what the benefits are.

The poem looks at a common discourse of rivalry

between states and their attractions. What seems

apparent is that each state has a ‘different way of

living’ that impacts on a person’s choice to remain

there. Each having its own appeal.

The following site provides the composer’s personal

response to living and growing in Melbourne. http:// has an

incredible collage of images and spoken workds

telling the childhood of the poet.

karunda, october, 1992’




Travelling is a key part of many people’s lives, either

overseas or within their own boarders. Here

Komninos is considering the impact of tourism of

those who travel and tourism itself.

There is the contrast between the tourists and the

experience of the persona (which seems to be

undoubtedly Komninos), “ i am on this side of the

bamboo curtain./ the side that charge meals to their

rooms and pay with/ mastercard when they check

out./ on the other side, well it’s not really bamboo, it’s

lattice and hesian, on a sliding/ door set-up,

suspended from the roof.” The experience of the

traveller within its own boarders to those who have

travelled far - “that’s where the backpackers eat./ it’s

cheaper./ no tablecloths, no table service, no silver

cutlery and / napkins stuffed into wine glasses./ no

menus./ justa blackboard and a bain marie.” Consider

the ways in which Komninos is really challenging or

disregarding the experience of travelling according

to the conditions related to the experience.

The lay-back nature of the service, “maclean’s mouth

hasn’t been sighted for fifteen minutes./ a grolsch i

ordered./ fifteen minutes ago./ i get up and get it

myself from the bar./ it’s good./ in a flute glass./ cold./

the best way to drink beer./ the oysters arrive./

delicious!” What is the impact of using the label of

the beer – Grolsch (an import beer) than referring to

an Australian label.

There is then the distinct contrast of the tourist

experience and his own. The satiric tone is captured

as he mocks the tourists as they prance their bodies

for the gallery of japanese tourists./ for the fellow

swimmers”. This soon changes as the persona

reminds itself that he too is a tourist, but a tourist in

his own country “and i’m feeling pretty happy with

myself in this chosen/aloness/treating my self/ on this

side of the bamboo curtain/ for a change.”

This poem reflects the interesting phenomeon of

reality travel programs’. The travel industry may be

feeling the pinch of political events, but it would seem

that travelling is supposed to impact on the ‘way you

live’. Through extensive travel as experiencing how

others live we are far more appreciative of our own

way of life, or through travelling within our own

borders, we are ‘changing the way’ we live.

hillstone welcome’


This poem challenges perceptions that people have

of ‘lifestyles’ and the ways that they are seen or

believed or live. In this poem the contrast is made

through what the ‘locals’ perceive through

appearance. The persona is first thought to be a bikie,

then a truckie. It challenges the reader’s perceptions.

Why would it be so difficult for the locals at this scene

to believe that who they thought was a bikie or truckie

is now a poet.

In this rather brief poem, many questions can be

asked about what people think of others ‘ways of

living’. This is probably the opportune time to consider

related materials such as ‘Queer Eye for a Straight

Guy’ or ‘What NOT to Wear’.

It can also be the best time to introduce the Support

materials supplied by the Board of Studies ‘Workplace

and Community Texts’ – Applying for a Job.

the girls’


In the eight lines of the poem, Komninos means to

explore the importance of ‘milestones’.

He uses ‘the girls’ to challenge social conventions of

beauty and to show, ironically that all the fuss and

hype leading to a special social event can be marred

and lost through the mistakes made later in the


It would seem that this is not just left in the hands of

the girls’ but all social groups.

For those that do not understand or share this

experience, there is a wonderful photo essay (many

thanks to Karen Stapleton for this link) of The

Gunnedah Ball. The photo essay can be found at


mETAphor Issue 1 2004 page62




eat’ is about the several ironies related to health and

beauty. When considering the focus of this module,

health and beauty relates to different ways of living

in several ways. There are so many different

perspectives about health and beauty that it is no

surprise that so many are getting mixed messages,

which is the message from this piece.

At the beginning of the poem, there are three very

prominent voices, that of the mother, the father and

the grandmother. It is obvious that this extended

family live together which is one different way of living

that can be discussed at this point.

The persona is encouraged to eat as a child so that

he can be healthy and strong, because he should be

appreciative of what he has as others didn’t and don’t

have the same opportunities. But this suddenly

changes, “and at thirteen years olf, the doctor said,

for your weight/ you should be seven foot four”

The poem then moves to have three more prominent

voices, that of the mother, the father and the doctor

(the absence of the grandmother has several

connotations). The persona is then placed on a

plethora of diets “each new magazine mum would

rush out and buy it/ every new diet i was encouraged

to try it”.

The persona then discussing the ways in which this

dieting impacts on him “but i didn’t get thin i only got

depressed”. The taunts and teasing at school and

the synonyms used for the word ‘fat’. But it is in the

final movement of the poem that the persona makes

the mature realisation that “and the real person is

within your skin, behind the/ barriers and fears, and

that person is the one that counts, their thoughts/

and their ideas,”.

at christmas


The beginning of this poem has a variety of fonts

using the word ‘Christmas’. All the different fonts can

be described as symbolic of the different ways

Christmas is spent universally. Mention should be

made that there is only one that is not in English or

Wingdings and that is the Greek, which is obviously

a reflection of the poet’s Greek-Australian heritage.

The first movement of the poem is very rhythmical,

most unlike many of the other pieces set for study.

The discussion is based on the concept of Christmas

in Australia as well as the global view “and it pleases

me to see/ when we all live in harmony/ and

harmony’s a thing I find/ each year around about this

time/ when everyone across the nation/ joins in

common celebration”.

The poem then moves to seven short four line stanzas

with the tag of ‘at christmas’. He the persona is

describing his family. His Christmas, the family, the

traditions, the noise, the festivities, the arguments

that we can all share in the understanding of.

The poem returns at the end to the celebration across

Australia, specifying the places and the people and

how everyone, everywhere and anywhere will be

sharing in some moment that is common to their

fellow Australian.

consumer rap’

This poem is probably the most accessible in terms

of an understanding of the module. The poet is

describing the way ‘we’ live challenging us to look at

ourselves, and our society and challenge the ways

that we live.

What is a disposable world? “it’s a disposable world,

i’ve heard people say/ use it once and throw it away”.

The persona claims that he does not want to be

responsible for the “planet’s destruction”. Be it rubbish

or a credit world.

What the persona argues is ‘choice’. That the world

and the consumer is not at ransom and that there is

the right to choose. The persona challenges you as

the reader to be consumer ‘savvy’ – “don’t’ chase the

bargin, before you check the jargon” and challenges

you to “demand your rights, consumers UNITE!”.

Once again, there is the opportunity to use the Board

of Studies Support Materials ‘Workplace and

Community Texts’ – Being a Consumer.

Responding and Composing – just to get


life in melbourne

Compose five diary enteries (over a six month period)

exploring how you feel about moving from one place

to another. This could be a town, a state or a country.

Include your observations about the changes that you

have experienced.

Respond to the following collage of images and

spoken words about the poets childhood – http://

karunda, october, 1992’

“It’s all about the lifestyle!”

In what ways are reality programs promoting a ‘way

of living’? How does the poetry of Komninos challenge


You are a backpacker. Compose three emails

mETAphor Issue 1 2004 page63


describing your adventures and how you feel you

have explored yourself through these travels. The

emails are to be sent to:

-your family

-a close friend

-your work mate/s

hillstone welcome’

Compose a conversation between three distinctly

different personas. Write using their idioms and their

language approach (write as they ‘sound’).

the girls’

Compose a proposal for your ‘ideal’ formal. This is to

presented to the your school Principal or Head and

your SRC.


Explore the ever growing debate about the eating

habits of children and adolescents. Class debate –

“To eat or not to eat, that is the question”

at christmas

Recount your family Christmas family tradition.

consumer rap’

Consider various magazines, newspapers and

television advertising. Decontruct the ways that the

pieces have been composed to sell their products.

Rounding up the Module

Press upon the students that they are required to

know ALL poems set for study as the Board of Studies

do claim the right to prescribe the text in the exam.

Related materials

Reality/lifestyle programs (consider the key

presenters – what image is being sold, the areas of

focus for the show and their content)

-Sydney Weekend

-Backyard Blitz

-DIY Rescue

-Changing Rooms

-Queer Eye for a Straight Guy

-What NOT to Wear (beginning soon)

-opening pages of Maestro Peter Goldsworthy


-films ‘Wogboy’, ‘The Royal Tannenbaums’,

Orange County

-advertising/ Internet pop ups