Reading Helen Koukoutsis: Cicada Chimes

Anna Dimitriou


In her collection of poems Cicada Chimes, Helen Koukoutsis, an Australian poet of Greek Orthodox heritage explores the conflicting emotions produced by death and loss. The collection begins with her father’s funeral and ends with a dramatic manifesto that shows grief’s expressive power. The questions that frame this reading of Cicada Chimes are:  how does this modern Australian poet utilise cultural and religious traditions for elegy? What type of spirituality does Koukoutsis identify with? And how does her work both draw on, and critically distance itself from traditional Greek rituals of lament? I will argue that Koukoutsis’ speaker positions herself both inside and outside her Orthodox faith tradition. Her inherited Eastern Mediterranean beliefs and customs are a source of consolation for her, but they are also sites of alienation and oppression. This collection of poems negotiates this contradictory relationship to tradition.


multicultural literature

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