Jas DUKE (Australia)
Jas Duke (1939, Ballart – 1992, Melbourne, Australia) – poet, performer, actor. In spite of the fact that his parents were schoolteachers, Duke, as he himself said, did not finish any educational institution. Having acquired reading skills at an early age and reading everything at sight, and having an open view over the world around him, he freely moved from one school to another, from one college to another – “the tasks I was set there were either ludicrously easy or impossibly difficult.” In 1966 Duke moved to England, where he worked in the free press, mixing with various circles of “political and psychodelic underground,” but “as a critical observer rather than a true believer.” At that time he started his creative literary activities, his interest to the sound poetry grew due to the acquaintance with the history of art and literature of the beginning of the century, and also with the significant for the century phenomena of dadaism and jazz. During the period from 1967 till 1972 Duke took part in a number of underground films directed by J. Keen: Meatdaze, Doctor Volta, Muttonjeff Ice Cream, Pink Auto, Rayday, Sherbert Suckers, White Dust è Marzman. On his return to Australia at the end of 1972 and after changing several jobs, Duke got a job at the Melbourne City Labour Department, at the same time pursuing his literary activities. He was one of the organisers of the city poetic union, of the publishing house “Collective Effort Press,” and he was actively popularizing the ideas of the “performance poetry.” Among the published editions are the following ones: Destiny Wood (Melbourne, 1978), Poems of War and Peace (Melbourne: Collective Effort Press, 1987), The Best of Jas H. Duke: Sound poems and Songs (MC, Melbourne: NMA Publications, 1989). His sound poetry productions he defined as “going back to the dawn of human speech,” saying that similar text productions have “always been popular in religious circles.” Most of Duke’s poetry (including sound-poetry) productions bear a powerfull social supply, that is the result of the combination of biting irony, irreconcilability and anarchism, on the one hand, and absolute positivism, on the other hand. Such productions as “Leon Trotsky,” “Stalin,” “A letter to Queen Victoria,” “Dada” and a number of others can be rightfully called the pure pieces of “sound-social” poetry, requiring immediate emotional feedback. According to N. Zurbrugg, “only ... few English-language poets in or outside Australia come close to Duke’s... performance.” Duke participated as an actor in a number of films directed by the duet A. & C. Cantrill (presentations on the National TV, Australia), and he also recorded about forty sound poems, distributed in the samizdat way. His “Shit Poem” was cancelled from broadcast on the ABC Radio National, and in 1988 he was invited to be a jury member of the Premier’s Literary Award of Victoria. In 1992 Jas Duke died of complications caused by the accident.