Jas H. Duke:
A Biographical Sketch

by thalia

Jas H. Duke was born in Ballarat, Australia in 1939. Son of two schoolteachers, Irish-Scottish ancestors. His family moved to Melbourne in the 1950s.

He worked as a draftsman/ a laboratory assistant/ a technical writer and dreamed of becoming a chess champion (didnt quite make it). As a substitute he read every book that he could find.

In the 60's he became an Anarchist. Wrote short stories, and was desperately looking for a way to break-out! Went to England via the U S of A, where he circulated in the politico-psychedelic underground. In England he sought the commraderie of Freedom Press; met Ted Kavanagh, Cohn Bendit, Yoko Ono, and Raoul Hausmann. Jas became a political activist, and an actor who appeared in many underground movies by filmmaker Jeff Keen.

Jas came back to Australia in the early 70's. He published a surreal novel Destiny Wood printed in 1978, which includes poetry translated from the German, and a section of Concrete poems. He became an active member of Collective Effort Press, where he was involved in many small press publications, including the groundbreaking 925 a poetry magazine, for the workers, by the workers, about the workers work.

Jas was also involved in the first Visual Poetry Anthology of Australia Missing Forms published in 1981 by Collective Effort Press.

His poetry reading performances were memorable. They included: sound poems, lyric poems, narrative poems, the satirical, the absurd the political . . . his range was immense. Sometimes he would tear out a page of poetry and eat it while reciting a poem, or, sometimes he would scream out D A D A! in various intensities. His energy and commitment to poetry would shock and re-awaken his audience.

Jas discovered visual and sound poetry, along with the Dada movement in the 60's. He was initially influenced by R. Hausmann and K Schwitters, but found Letraset (and similar products) to be a liberating force, one of anarchic dynamism.

Jas's last book, Poems of War and Peace was published in 1989 by Collective Effort Press.

On 19 June 1992, Jas died of a massive heart attack brought on by a broken bone that shattered when he slipped and fell over a concrete step.

P. O., friend and confidant of long standing, and a Collective Effort Press member, is preparing a posthumous collection of the Melbourne Anarchist poet Jas H. Duke entitled Poems of Life & Death.

for copies of
Poems of War and Peace
                 & or
Poems of Life & Death
Collective Effort Press
P.O. Box 2430V
G.P.O. Melbourne 3001

Go to Selected Fablegrams of Jas H. Duke.

Go to Jas H. Duke, Introduction.

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