Jas H Duke (1939–1992) : An Anarchist Poet

From the editorial to Going Down Swinging, No.13, March 1993:

“Welcome to the thirteenth Going Down Swinging. With this issue comes a compact disc of Jas H Duke reading his poems and talking about poetry. Jas Duke died tragically on June 13, 1992 in St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne at the age of 52.

Jas was born during the Second World War and began writing during the Vietnam War. In his youth he was an actor, appearing in many underground movies. He travelled overseas and wrote his long, surreal novel, Destiny Wood, in the early seventies in England (although it wasn’t published until 1978). Eventually, he gave up writing prose, saying: “I’m over 40 now; broken sentences are best for one at my time of life.”

He was an active member of Collective Effort Press [GPO Box 2430, Melbourne, Victoria, 3001] where he was involved in many small press publications including the ground-breaking 925 (a litmag about work and workers and written by workers) and a book of visual poetry, Missing Forms.

Jas Duke’s public readings were a constant delight — with his inimitable sound poems, lyric poems, narrative poems, the satirical, the absurd, the political. His range was immense. His readings were memorable, not only because of his appearance — a big man with a shaved head and a beard that out-bearded Ned Kelly’s — nor simply because of his theatrics — sometimes he would tear out a page of poetry by Yeats and eat it while reading a poem — but mainly for his energy and commitment to a poetry that shocked and re-awakened his audiences. He suspected authorities and often re-wrote historical episodes, pointing to the real-life heroes, those underdogs history overlooks.

In 1987 Jas H Duke produced one of the great poetry books of our time — Poems of War and Peace. It was remarkable for its variety and breadth: 268 pages of his poems, instructions for sound poems, translations of German poets and a selection from Destiny Wood. Jas Duke was an influential poet whose output has yet to be fully realised. He wrote thousands of poems, enough for a book a year for a long time. Jas will be sadly missed, but luckily his poetry remains.”

Track 4: Interview with Bill Marshall for 3PBS-FM radio (197?). Answering the Telephone. The Morning of a Bullshit Artist. Shit Poem (all from 3PBS-FM recording 197?). Bruno’s Injury. My Brother at the Dole Office. Noisy Incident. The Future of Richmond (Collective Effort recordings).

Thylazine sez:

“Jas H. Duke was born in Ballarat, Australia. He was the son of two school teachers. In 1966 he travelled to England and Europe. While in London he became an anarchist and worked on Freedom Press publications. He mixed with the mid to late 60s underground bohemian scene there meeting people such as Cohn Bendit, Yoko Ono and Raol Hausmann. Jas moved to Brighton (England) and worked as a sound poet. He was involved in the experimental multi-media films of Jeff Keen. In 1972 Jas moved back to Australia where he became involved in … performance poetry. He worked both as a sound and visual poet and was [an] actor in some of the Cantrill’s short films. He was also a chess historian/aficionado. Jas H. Duke worked as a Draughtsman and later a Technical Officer for the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works and wrote about his experiences there in 925 magazine. He was involved in numerous visual poetry and photographic exhibitions.”

See also : Sounds, sound poetry, and sound/text compositions, Jas. H. Duke. “This article first appeared in NMA10 magazine. In it, the author takes a fresh look at sound poetry in the Twentieth Century, and offers some practical advice to the Sound Poet/Sound Text Compositionist of today. Included is a previously-unpublished performance poem.” | Duke, James Herriott, 1939-1992, Nick Heath, libcom.org | Introductions to Jas H. Duke (Karl Young).

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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