Book review: She’s Not Normal, Koraly Dimitriadis

While some poems are laced with humour and others dwell in darkness, this collection spans the female experience, from migrant to lover to mother.
Image: Supplied. On the left is a photo of a women with light skin and long brown hair looking at the viewer and smiling. Her hand is placed below her chin and she is leaning on a table, wearing a short sleeve black tshirt. The right is the cover of the collection, with bright pink background and curvy letters spelling out 'She's Not Normal'.

Koraly Dimitriadis’ She’s Not Normal screams off the page. Announcing itself in graphic capitals and repeated refrains, Dimitriadis’ collection is saying something and it is saying it loud. She’s Not Normal feeds into every deep facet and crevice of what it is like to be Koraly Dimitriadis, but also – a woman, a migrant, a lover and a mother. Whether playing it up for laughs or exposing the grit, it is a collection that allows you to experience everything.

The collection is loosely organised into various themes, spanning from romance to cruelty. She’s Not Normal centres on the idea of moving “outside the box”, as the aptly titled ‘The box’ declares:

I’m out of the box!
Now I can dance
Now I can speak

She’s Not Normal by Koraly Dimitriadis

The titular poem asks us ‘Why can’t she be normal?’, with each subsequent poem chipping away at this essential question. Some poems are glistening with humour, while others lean into darkness and violence. These jarring juxtapositions take the reader through a spiral, never once quite landing on one spot for too long. This is not necessarily a bad thing, rather it shows the author’s breadth. Some standouts include ‘I wish I was a cool Greek guy’, which cuts to the core of experiencing migrant identity through the female lens, or ‘Melbourne’s melody’, a devotion to the nightlife and guys in bands of Melbourne.

At first glance, Dimitriadis’ simplicity is deceptive. In print, the repetition can seem slightly infantile. Yet read aloud, these poems begin to take their rhythm and shape. The colour fills into the page and the lyrical quality of Dimitriadis’ work comes to the fore. Unabashed and bold, these poems have a confessional feel that situates you right within the thick of it. Flicking through the book, each poem unfolds like the kind of conversation you may have over a red wine with a close friend, where gossip falls away into damning the patriarchy.

Dimitriadis says a lot through this collection, but it is often the most obvious. Many poems take the predictable path, leaving the reader with little to ponder. The stanzas are short and punchy, yet there is not much left between the lines. Often driven home by capital letters or a repeated phrase, there is something forceful about each conclusion. Yet, even where the depth lacks, it is undeniable that Dimitriadis has a strong voice. She is able to take the unpoetic subject (armpit hair, Facebook friends) and turn it into a smouldering melody. Her sharp and incisive dissections on politics and culture are all the more enhanced by this punchy style.

Read: Book review: Her Sunburnt Country, Deborah Fitzgerald

Deeply feeling and deeply personal, She’s Not Normal is a collection with unflinching spirit. The uncomfortable and the deeply comforting meld to form this striking collection. A distinctive and memorable read.

She’s Not Normal by Koraly Dimitriadis
Publisher: Outside The Box Press
ISBN: 9780645775204
Format: Paperback
Pages: 191pp
RRP: $27.95

She’s Not Normal will be available in bookshops from the 1 February 2024; it’s available on Amazon at the moment.

This review is published under the Amplify Collective, an initiative supported by The Walkley Foundation and made possible through funding from the Meta Australian News Fund.

Ava Cadee is a Lebanese-Australian law student, writer and poet. She is originally from Boorloo (so-called Perth), and currently lives and works on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land (so-called Canberra).