Irina Dimitric’s journey wasn’t an ordinary one. She experienced WWII as a child, and a year after graduating from the University of Zagreb in 1961, majoring in English and French, left her homeland with her family to settle in Australia in 1964.
Apart from having enjoyed her teaching career, Irina has always searched for a creative outlet through different mediums as she has a deep well of creativity in her luminous soul. As a young girl she learned ballet, and in Sydney she joined a painting class and later on an amateur acting group at Alliance Française where she had built a reputable acting career for a number of years. In her retirement, she returned to dance – belly dancing!
I had lunch with Irina a few days ago and we talked about her many talents she has developed over the last fifty years. She is a fine painter and took up photography and writing poetry three years ago.
My recent conversation with Irina took place at the time she had just published a collection of poems, as she found poetry to be the best medium to express her soul’s whispers at this stage of her life.
What is poetry to you, Irina, and what do you write about?
Just recently, I wrote a poem entitled Ars Poetica, in which I say what I feel about poetry. Irrespective of the content and form, to me a poem must sing; it must be musical. I write about anything that touches me, be it happy or sad. And I like writing silly poems, too.
You are a painter, a photographer, you were a dancer and an actress; how does poetry complement or contradict your other creative pursuits?
I see no contradictions here, except competition for time. Any creative activity can inspire a poem but at the moment I’m engaged in photography, a bit of drawing and writing poetry. I’ve found that often a photo will inspire me to write a poem and vice versa, I’ll take a photo to complement a poem. Dancing is out since hip replacements 14 years ago. I do hope to get back to painting one day but first I must finish two memoirs.
Who or what inspires you when choosing topics and themes for your poems?
Inspiration comes from the world around me, birds and bees, flowers and trees, cats and dogs, disturbing news on TV; and the world inside me, including memories and dreams about love, friendship, longing, forgiveness, fear, loss, despair, hope, joy and gratitude. Most of the time, topics choose me: when I’m overwhelmed by strong feelings about something, I have to spill it on paper to come to terms with it. It’s very healing for me. When I wrote the poem Ode to My Canary for instance, I was also grieving for my mother whose end was nearing.
At this point, I have to stress that my recent interest in both photography and writing poetry arose in 2011 when I joined first Facebook and then Gather.com where I met other writers, poets and photographers, who also provided topics for various challenges.
Dreams On My Pillow is first and foremost a tribute to my cyber friends as without their mentoring and encouragement most of my poems would never have been written. The title of the book is the title of a poem, which was written as a response to a challenge on Gather ‘write a poem about winter’, but in warm Sydney, I could only dream about white winters as I remembered them in the Northern Hemisphere. The connection with my country of origin and France is very strong in my memory. I’ve been blogging for a year now, new cyber friendships have been forged and inspiration keeps being provided.
Who are your favourite poets or writers?
The full list would be too long. I’ll just mention a few poets: Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Jacques Prévert, the three Williams – Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Blake, John Keats, Robert Frost and Pablo Neruda. As for novelists, apart from the great classics of the 19th century, I like contemporary writers who challenge my mind and soul both on an intellectual and emotional level, to mention just a few: Henri Troyat, Gabriel García Márquez, Kate Granville, Sally Vickers, Michael Arditti, Rose Tremain, Ian McEwan and Jojo Moyes. Of course, your books, Branka, are in the same category. And for relaxation I enjoy reading Jeffrey Archer’s short stories and Aaron Paul Lazar’s mysteries.
You have written a book of poetry. Do you think that this will change something/anything in this turbulent world or have you written it just for your own enjoyment of self-expression?
I’ve written my poems as a way of dealing with my own feelings and the world around me. I don’t pretend my book will change the world in a major way, but I do hope it will be appreciated by readers not only as entertainment but also as guidance regarding life’s issues.