Meet poet, Frank Prem, and learn his thoughts about poetryPosted: August 22, 2020
Today, talented poet, Frank Prem, has joined me to share about his favourite poem, why he likes it and what it means to him. His thoughts are very inspiring.
Frank shares a lot of his wonderful work on his blog here: https://frankprem.wordpress.com/.
Now, over to Frank.
What is your favourite poem
Usually when I’m invited to contemplate personal favourites among poets and their poetry I hark back to contemplate what the godfathers of Australian poetry (A.B. (The Banjo) Patterson and Henry Lawson represent for me. I feel great affection for both these writers as communicators and storytellers in their work.
While I admire their work very much and often refer to Patterson’s Clancy of the Overflow (http://www.wallisandmatilda.com.au/clancy-of-the-overflow.shtml), or Lawson’s short story The Drover’s Wife (http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/DrovWife.shtml) as examples of work that inspires me in my own storytelling efforts, today my contemplations have led me toward more contemporary writing and more personal inspiration.
Some years back, when I was in the first flush of joy at recognising myself as a poet – that experience of looking into a mirror and seeing a different self gazing back – I spent all my free moments pursuing the threads and trails of writing and learning what it meant to be a writer. I haunted the spoken word poetry scene of Melbourne at the time (around 1999, or thereabouts), to learn and to hone and develop.
The great and acknowledged master of Australian poetry at that time (and right through until his death in 2019) was Les Murray. He was a big man in every respect and it happened that he was visiting Melbourne to speak and to do some readings of his own work in a range of locations across one weekend.
I didn’t much about Murray at the time, but made it my business to haunt his footsteps from venue to venue, and to be in every one of his audiences. Maybe to ask a question.
It was quite an experience and one of the poems that he read had a huge impact on me, as a budding and aspiring writer. Watching and listening to Murray read it was a marvellous experience, and one that I still reflect back on from time to time, and wonder if the way that my writing has evolved owes more or less to that occasion.
The poem that so involved me is called An absolutely ordinary rainbow. My source for the poem (below) is http://www.lesmurray.org/index.htm
An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow
The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,
at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There’s a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can’t stop him.
The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There’s a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.
The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
sob very loudly—yet the dignity of his weeping
holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for tears as children for a rainbow.
Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
or force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us
trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.
Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit—
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of weeping;
as many as follow her also receive it
and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who weeps ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body
not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,
hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea—
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has wept, and now has finished weeping.
Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street.
Les Murray- The Weatherboard Cathedral, 1969
What is your interpretation of this poem?
This poem, in my interpretation, at least, is describing a kind spiritual awe and fascination bestowed on the most commonplace event. Someone (a man) weeping in a public place.
Every moment of every day someone – so many someone’s – is weeping. When might that be an event worthy of attention from a passing stranger, intent on personal business, and important matters?
When is the commonplace worthy of wonder?
The poem has me holding my breath, as I view the scene and watch the spectators thronging to worship, or condemn or simply to gawk before discussion at another time. Perhaps over dinner in the evening.
An ordinary event (rainbow) on the walkways of the main business centre in Sydney that no one can ignore.
What emotions does this poem invoke in you?
In reading, or listening to this poem being read, I feel the emotions swirling through the crowd – the curiosity and the wonder, the incredulity and intolerance. The wondering of what it could be about, how to stop it. Why did he stop weeping just when he did?
I am caught up in the narrative and inclined towards grief, but I don’t know quite why. Like the children, this poem caused me to sit at Murray’s feet.
If you could choose to write like any well-known poet, who would it be?
I go to some lengths, nowadays, to avoid reading any well known poet’s work too deeply. I feel so overfull of my own stories and writing imperatives that I fear, a little, being too influenced by any other powerful storyteller.
This work of Murray’s and some other of his material speaks to me, particularly when read aloud, as though it came from my own pen, in small ways and through small familiarities. Murray tells stories and peppers them with layers of meaning, or of question. He can be read at many levels, while retaining a lived contemporary feel within the work.
Literature without the excess baggage.
That is the kind of writing that I aspire to. Storytelling that can be spoken as conversational tale, and read as meaningful verse.
What is special to you about this poet’s writing style?
The power of Murray’s free verse is inspirational. There is no question that he is giving us capita ‘P’ poetry, but it is in a free verse form. There is such art in achieving the sharp brevity of ‘show, don’t tell’, within the confines of a fully fledged short story, as the piece above is.
Murray’s death (29 April 2019) is a huge loss to contemporary literature, I think.
A Kiss for the Worthy – Poetry book
A Kiss for the Worthy is the second book in a trilogy of poetry books, each inspired by a poem by a well-known and loved poet. In this, Book 2, Frank selected Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and used each line to write a poem of his own creation and inspiration.
I enjoyed this book very much and found the poems to be of a lighter tone than those included in Book 1. These poems revolve very much around the I, of the poem, and his interaction with nature and the world around him. The poems about with energy and his joy in what he sees and hears and also in the strength and endurance of his own body.
An example of this physical joy in nature is illustrated in this extract from be this (with kisses):
“turn your face
to feel the sun
warm and light
and good upon it”
And also in this beautiful extract from inhale (my heart):
“and where I strode
with salt flecks
and in the bubbles”
I really recommend this book of uplifting poetry to lovers of this genre.
Purchase A Kiss for the Worthy by Frank Prem
About Robbie Cheadle
Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.
I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.
I have participated in a number of anthologies:
- Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
- Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
- Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
- Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.
I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.
Find Robbie Cheadle
Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram
Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books
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