It’s my pleasure to hand the Showcase over to Frank, another author I’ve come to know through the power of the internet.
Thank you for the opportunity to chat with yourself and your readers. Do you think we might have a cuppa? It’s been a busy couple of months, down here in Australia.
My name is Frank Prem, and I’ve been a storytelling poet for as long as I can remember. Not always a good, one, but after forty odd years of doing a thing, you develop skills. I find now that if I decide I have a thing to write, it gets written, more or less as I first conceived it in my mind.
I first started writing as an easy way of dealing with demanding tasks in my English class. The fact that it was easy for me to rattle off a poem instead of an essay should have given me a clue.
Over the years, writing never strayed far from me, and when it was distant, I was always a little bereft. Like I’d lost a part of myself.
Over the years I evolved into more explicit focus on stories, and to use of free verse poetry as my main, means of expression.
I am of the view that rhyme should be virtually invisible in a poem (from a reading perspective), and that free verse should be a song.
I’m not a great one for revision. I discovered early that all too often, critique, when it was offered, led to the conclusion that my poem should be rewritten. The problem being that by the time I’d rewritten it, the wretched thing would demand yet another rewrite.
I concluded that I should take critique on board and store it up for application on the next piece I came to draft. Looking for constant improvement, rather than eternal revision.
When I think over the major influences on my writing, I hark back to the early Australian writers – AB (The Banjo) Patterson, and Henry Lawson. I see these writers as great communicators through the medium of galloping rhyme poetry and in Lawson’s case, short stories that dealt with the experiences that every reader or listener could relate to.
In my mind’s eye I visualise a number of illiterate bushmen gathered around one person who could read and who owned a copy of The Bulletin, reading it out to the gathering aloud. I see their lips move as they actively memorised these wonderful stories, for later recitation around campfires and out on the droving track.
My favourite poems from Patterson are perhaps Clancy of the Overflow, and almost certainly, The Man from Ironbark. Lawson was a bittersweet writer and his story of The Drover’s Wife will still break your heart. The favourite, for me, though, is a piece that has had me laughing since I first read it in primary school – The Loaded Dog.
Many other short story writers have been influential, and I single out H. E.Bates (The Darling Buds of May, Uncle Silas) and Damon Runyan (Guys and Dolls, Runyon On Broadway).
The current publication Small Town Kid is a progressive series of – perhaps archetypal – stories and anecdotes of growing up in the 1960s and 70s in a small town in rural Victoria (Australia). The town was a quite insular place in those days and only grudgingly welcoming of tourist visitors and migrant families coming to settle there.
Beechworth was an institution town – Old Persons Home, Lunatic Asylum, Her Majesty’s Prison – as well as having goldrush roots and Bushranger associations.
It was said of Beechworth that if a dollar found its way into the town, it would not be seen again.
Against this background, however, a young person had extensive and wonderful freedoms in a time before television, and computers and social media. It was a time also before the civilising effects of sewerage and indoor toilets.
A boy and his dog could roam after rabbits, or cycle 14 miles to spend half an hour with a girl. Later on, that young boy could indulge in under-age drinking, and watch helplessly as his friends died in the car accidents that were rampantly fatal on poorly formed country roads. In the early 1960s over 1,000 people died on the road in a single year.
By the time I had small children (had them young, as was also the lot of many Small Town Kids) the childhood that I had known was gone. My children would look at me as though I were teaching myths and legends (on a good day) or outright fibs (more often), and it became apparent that if my young days were not to disappear as exemplars of a life that was once commonplace, they had to be written down. Everyone knows, after all, that if it is written it must be true.
- https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L6114KS – Small Town Kid is listed in all Amazon markets as ebook and paperback (via Ingrams).
- https://www.facebook.com/frankprem2/videos/2206229552928830/ – This little video features some local settings that are part and parcel of the poems in the book.
- https://frankprem.com – my author page
- https://www.facebook.com/frankprem2/ – Small Town Kid Facebook page.
Here’s one of my Beechworth poems. This one isn’t in the book, but always gives me a sense of the old town.
It should be read a column at a time.
Arthur and Alice: feature on ford street.
arthur and alice found each other
one day back in fifty-nine
he was a young man
with hair slicked
and tongue tied
no aspiration greater
than a seat at the flicks
with a girl as beautiful
alice was a slender reed
hardly of an age to say
yes to next saturday night
if her mother could talk
to her father
and if arthur came for her
freshly scrubbed and standing tall
to shake her dad’s hand
then an easy walk
to see the movie
with a newsreel
and a serial thriller thrown in
as shown on the billboard
wired to the elm tree
at the corner
of camp street and ford
a bag of chips
from the dolphin café
to share at intermission
as thrilling as the main feature
arthur and alice
walk in the town every day
the old man stands tall
with his hair slicked
speaks quietly to alice
her little frame at risk
of an unauthorized journey
from the tug
of the gentle breeze
slow steps and hand-in-hand
theirs is a small world
made only for two
arthur is anchor
alice is home
together they’ve featured
in a day to day serial
not made for the newsreel
or the billboard wired to the tree
at the corner of camp street
but playing privately
in a small house
an easy walk from town
Since he wrote the above post for me, Frank has published a book of free verse, recounting the events of the Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria in 2009.
I had the pleasure of an advance copy, here is my review,
I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of poetry, I think you can probably blame it on school, the poems we had to read and ‘appreciate’ were never the sort of thing that stirred me. I could never see the meanings that well-meaning teachers ascribed to the words. As for rhyme…
However, times change. I have read Frank Prem’s book, Devil in the Wind through older eyes, without a teacher breathing down my neck, explaining what it all ‘means’. Having family in Australia no doubt also helps; as the subject matter is one that I’m now slightly more familiar with (we don’t get that many devastating bush fires in Devon, which is a good job).
This is raw stuff, not the immaculately stilted lines of classical poetry, with its rhythm and rhyme, this is brutal and freestyle, I can imagine it spoken, with energy and feeling, it jolts and shocks you, conveying in a few short sentences the destruction of so much. The words go straight to the heart of the terrible events of 2009, that form the basis for these poems. They evoke images of the destruction, the sense of hopelessness in the face of nature and the indominable resilience of the human spirit. It all starts with the prologue, a powerful piece in its own right which sets the scene.
I can’t really single out one of the poems that follow as better than the rest, they all have their own energy. The titles carry as much emotion as the poems themselves. Through the gauntlet, The Strength of a Truckie, Portrait in Green and Gold. Even the strangely named Snorkel North.
They flow, one into another, making one vivid picture, a tragic event as seen from all sides.
As you can guess, I really liked it. Thanks to YouTube, I don’t even have to imagine what one would sound like, as Frank reads one for us (opens in new window).
Five stars from me, thank you, Frank; for introducing me to your freestyle poetry.
My thanks to this weeks guest for a great post. I hope you all enjoyed it.
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Have a good week,