Michael and I are delighted to welcome poetry blogger and new author, Frank Prem to Robbie’s inspiration today. Frank blogs at https://frankprem.wordpress.com/blog/
This is one of Frank’s recent poems, entitled sailing my boat (for the first time):
who is the sailor
to sail my ship
who will be captain
am the passenger
flap the sails
while you tight up
the stay lines
point the prow
point the ship
to the blue
this is the last
this is the first
this is the journey
beyond mere dreaming
steer me straight
you solemn-faced boatman
steer to the sunset
no ship ahoy!
there’s just you and I
on the chart
but laughter too
behind is the old
is where we go
ahead is the place
Tell us a bit about yourself
I live in a very pretty township in North-East Victoria in Australia. The town has gold mining history etched into every block of honey granite that was cut to build the grand old buildings that make up the town’s heart. I live here with my wife, Leanne Murphy, who is a musician and artist and songwriter and teacher.
I’ve worked as a psychiatric nurse for some 40 years now, and I consider myself to have been a kind of apprentice poet and storyteller for most of that time, recently feeling that I have perhaps graduated to a Journeyman status in the craft.
At present, I’m transitioning toward what I hope will be my next career – producing books of my work, doing readings, workshops and perhaps get along to some writers festivals to perform and share.
Your home town sounds lovely, Frank, and you have had an interesting career. I am looking forward to seeing a lot of your work going forward.
Who is your favourite poet?
Hard question. I think I have to go back to my childhood and youth to identify a favourite. I tend to consider songwriters as the best contemporary poets, but my choice today is of a fellow named Andrew Barton (The Banjo) Patterson (1862 – 1941).
I like Patterson (and a number of his contemporaries) because the poetry they wrote (largely in a style called ‘galloping rhyme’ or ‘bush poetry’ or ‘bush ballads’) in a style that was intended to communicate something of their times to a population that was largely illiterate. I imagine a group of droving men gathered around someone who had a copy of The Bulletin magazine in hand, reading aloud to them as they tried hard to memorise the poem through the rhyme scheme, so that they in their turn could share it around a campfire with others. A little fanciful, perhaps, but I think it may have been that way.
Patterson was a city based lawyer, but he wrote lovingly of the bush and his descriptions are quite iconic.
Much of Patterson’s work was humorous, though not all, and he is generally considered to be the author of Australia’s unofficial national anthem – Waltzing Matilda
Here is a version of Waltzing Matilda sung by Slim Dusty:
Although I live in South Africa, I have fond memory of this tune too.
What do you appreciate most in a poem?
I’ll nominate one of Patterson’s poems that has inspired me with its imagery, and wistfulness for many years. Also a poem that to this day I can recite (almost) in full. Well, seventy-five percent, perhaps.
The poem is called ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ (1889)
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just `on spec’, addressed as follows, `Clancy, of The Overflow’.
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
`Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.’
In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving `down the Cooper’ where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the ‘buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of `The Overflow’.
Thank you, Frank, for introducing me to this great poem that I didn’t know. I love its vibrancy and rhythm.
What do you appreciate the most in a poem?
For me, a poem needs to act as a means of communication. I think that simple language can be used to convey and to demystify complex subjects.
For a poem to be effective, in my personal view, it should be intellectually ‘available’ to any and every reader. With my own work, I find I am most pleased when an audience member or a reader is stimulated by my work to engage with his own reminiscences and/or experience. Often I have folk approach me to talk about their personal counter to the poetry I have just shared with them.
This feels to me like the reason I write.
I also like great messages package in simple and accessible language, Frank. I can tell that your poetry has a big impact on your readers.
Why do you write poetry?
I have two answers, Robbie. Firstly, why did I start, and then why do I write now.
I started writing as a means of understanding and unravelling the things that took place around me. As a teenager, it was angst, of course. Later, though, when I began working in a lunatic asylum (as it was known back then) and began experiencing things that were outside my experience of life, I found that unravelling my poem was something I could do, and a thing I needed to do.
As for now? I think I am love with the craft that can capture an idle thought and turn it into a contemplation that I can then share with random strangers and visitors to my workplace (the poetry blog) and find myself engaged in meaningful conversation.
It is truly a wonderful thing and I believe I would not be living, if I was not also writing.
These are both wonderful reasons to write poetry, Frank.
Small Town Kid
Frank Prem’s book of poetry called Small Town Kid is available for pre-order on Amazon here:
Small Town Kid is the experience of regional life as a child, in an insular town during the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, remote from the more worldly places where life really happens, in a time before the internet and the online existence of social media.
It is a time when a small town boy can walk a mile to school and back every day, and hunt rabbits with his dog in the hours of freedom before sundown. He can hoard crackers for bonfire night and blow up the deputy school master’s mailbox in an act of joyous rebellion.
It is a time when a small town teenager will ride fourteen miles on a bicycle for his first experience of girls, and of love. A time when migrating from a foreign country to a small town means his family will always feel that they are strangers, while visitors to the town are treated like an invading host.
It is also the remembrance of tragedy for inexperienced friends driving on narrow country roads.
This collection of poems and stories shares the type of childhood that has mostly disappeared in contemporary times. Come and revisit it here, in the pages of a Small Town Kid.
About Frank Prem
Frank Prem has been a storytelling poet for forty years. When not writing or reading his poetry to an audience, he fills his time by working as a psychiatric nurse.
He has been published in magazines, zines and anthologies, in Australia and in a number of other countries, and has both performed and recorded his work as ‘spoken word’.
He lives with his multi-talented singer/songwriter/artist wife Leanne Murphy in the beautiful township of Beechworth in the North-East of Victoria (Australia).
Find Frank Prem
Franks author page is located at: https://frankprem.com/.
Franks working blog (nothing but poetry) is located at: https://frankprem.wordpress.com/
Audio of some live and some studio recordings is available at Franks author page at: https://frankprem.com/audio-recordings-spoken-word/
Thank you, Frank, for visiting us today. We wish you all the very best with your lovely new book.