Welcome to June’s Q & A interviews. Today I’m delighted to be featuring Frank Prem who is sharing some of his writing journey and his fabulous new and unique Love Poetry Trilogy Collection.
Frank has focused on an unusual form of poetry where he takes a work of a famous poem and recreates his own version from in a new poem. I’ve recently read and reviewed – Walk Away Silver Heart. You can read my review HERE. And I’m very much looking forward to reading the next in the series – A Kiss from the Worthy, which awaits me on my Kindle. Frank is generously giving us a special peek with excerpts from some of his new poems from this book on Youtube. Check it out because Frank has one of the most amazing reading voices!
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, e-zines and anthologies, in Australia and in a number of other countries, and has both performed and recorded his work as ‘spoken word’.
Frank has published several collections of free verse poetry, including, Small Town Kid (2018), Devil In The Wind (2019), The New Asylum (2019), Walk Away Silver Heart (2020) and A Kiss for the Worthy (2020) He and his wife live in the beautiful township of Beechworth in northeast Victoria (Australia).
Frank is featuring his newly released book in his love trilogy here today – A Kiss for the Worthy. And below, Frank shares his inspiration for this series:
A Love Poetry Trilogy
I recently became enthralled by an idea, which was to take three poems, written by three eminent poets of a hundred years or more ago and to take each line or phrase individually, and to use the phrase as the inspiration for my own new piece of work.
This was an idea that first arose many years ago with the involvement internationally of a group of poets each responding to a line or phrase, and creating an interactive new work. The three poems were quite diverse, but each in their own way was, to my mind, a love poem.
The poems and poets were:
Amy Lowell – Madonna of the Evening Flowers (1919)
Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass (1855)
T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915)
My personal project involved writing a poem or each in turn, rotating poems and phrases at a rate of knots, until – a little to my own surprise – I found that I’d crafted three discrete new collections of poetry:
Walk Away Silver Heart (from Madonna of the Evening Flowers).
A Kiss for the Worthy (from Leaves of Grass).
Rescue and Redemption (from Prufrock).
Walk Away Silver Heart was launched in February 2020. A Kiss for the Worthy has only recently been released (May 17 th on Amazon), while Rescue and Redemption will come out a little later in the year.
Today I thought it might be most appropriate to focus on A Kiss for the Worthy, and I’ve selected an early review of the book to share, but in addition, I thought readers might appreciate listening to a few poems from the collection being read by the author, so I’ve recorded a short YouTube video, especially to accompany this interview, and not released to any other viewers, at this stage.
Check it out on YouTube!
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes,
the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also,
but I shall not let it.. . .
from Leaves of Grass
Drawing on the phrasing of Walt Whitman’s great late 19th century poem Leaves of Grass (above) Frank Prem has produced a collection of expansive and outward looking love poetry written, as always, in the unique style that allows every reader to relate.
Prem’s interpretations breathe new life into contemporary exploration of themes of love in poetry, and utilise Whitman’s original phrases to inspire a contemplation of the self in the context of landscape and the wider world:
and as they open
they are filled
with sweet perfumes
from a house filled (with the sensual)
A kiss for the worthy is the second of three collections that together comprise A Love Poetry Trilogy, with each revisiting outstanding work by stellar poets of the past to produce vibrant new collections. The first collection, walk away silver heart, draws on Amy Lowell’s deeply personal Madonna of the Evening Flowers, while the third, rescue and redemption, derives from T.S Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
This is a new kind of poetry that tells stories, draws pictures and elicits emotional responses from readers. Just as the best poetry should.
A Recent Review of A Kiss for the Worthy, posted on Goodreads by Elizabeth Gauffreau
Australian poet Frank Prem’s a kiss for the worthy is the second book in a trilogy of love poetry inspired by the work of three well-known poems: “Madonna of the Evening Flowers” by Amy Lowell, “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman, and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot.
In each book, Prem reproduces the inspiration poem and then writes a poem of his own prompted by each line of the inspiration poem. The approach makes for a very interesting call- and-response effect among the original poem in its entirety, the inspiration line, and Prem’s new poem. At the same time, each of the poems in the collection can easily stand on its own with no loss of effect.
I have to applaud Prem for his decision to take on “Leaves of Grass.” It was a bold and gutsy move to try to match Whitman barbaric yawp for barbaric yawp. But Prem pulled it off—and pulled it off admirably.
A kiss for the worthy is about love of self and love of life, a celebration of what it feels like to be fully alive and fully aware of the natural world.
I would describe Whitman’s use of celebratory language in Leaves of Grass as extravagant, with long lines piling word upon word, whereas Prem’s use of language is very spare, with many lines comprising only one or two words. Yet the celebratory feel of the poems is the same as Whitman’s. It’s really quite remarkable. Here are a couple of examples: from a kiss (for the worthy)
is that not
worthy of singing
of a kiss
from not until (I die)
I am alive
and it is so
of being . . .
may I go on
and may I last
For me, the two standout poems in the collection are “is beautiful (this year),” in response to “I loafe and invite my soul” and “soft warnings,” in response to “I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin.”
“Is beautiful (this year)” is an ode to wool gathering on a beautiful spring day, just taking in all of the day’s sights, sounds, fragrances, and sensations, while your mind roams free.
“Soft warnings” takes a more contemplative approach, as the speaker considers the man he was at age thirty-seven, who thought himself “so fine,” “so very fine.” He now wishes his thirty-six-year-old self had whispered soft warnings that it wouldn’t always be so. I heard Prem read this poem, and it was incredibly moving.
I highly recommend a kiss for the worthy for anyone feeling low at the end of a bad day, anyone feeling the need to celebrate a particularly good day, and anyone stuck in a rut of the day-to-day. “A kiss for the worthy” is a prime example of why we need poetry.
Now that we’ve gained some great insight into Frank’s works, we’re going to learn more about Frank:
“Hello Debby, thanks for having me visit with you. Hello readers!”
D.G. – Hello Frank, I’m delighted to have you over at my blog today. I know many of my readers here enjoy poetry, so I’m thrilled to introduce your work here. 🙂 Let’s get started!
Where do your book ideas grow from? Do events in your daily life inspire your writing ideas?
I feel as though I am surrounded by stories. In my approach to writing, I look for little things that are usually considered worthy of attention, and I elevate them to centre stage. It doesn’t matter what they are – a fleeting idea, a discarded bunch of flowers in a bin https://wp.me/p7yTr8-1Kr , or a discarded man – singing and drunk at the back of the supermarket https://wp.me/p7yTr8-2gh . All are worthy of a moment of contemplation, and a few words on paper.
I tend to obsess a little over my new ideas and pursue them. For example, a nearby flock of racing pigeons were, until recently, released to fly once or twice a day. Their flight would carry them nearer and nearer to the space above where I live, and I watch them fly. Watch the flock grow as cage after cage released new birds. Wheeling around, soaring. Adopting a new leader. Experiencing breakaways.
For day after day I watched those birds, took photographs on my smart phone, and wrote poems about them. The result was ‘a book of pigeons’ a modest group of contemplative poems, which delighted me https://wp.me/p7yTr8-70a .
In a more general sense, I write my life. Not necessarily detailed events, but experiences and feelings, and stories of each day.
D.G. – I love that Frank. So often the mundane has an interesting story behind it.
What’s your opinion on self-publishing? Do you edit and proofread your own work solely or do you hire an editor?
Self Publishing, or Indie Publishing has been the only way that I, as an unknown poet, could have possibly found my way into book. Quite simply, there is no way that a traditional publisher – large or small – would have wanted to take a chance on an unknown, free verse storyteller from rural Australia as a publishing prospect.
It simply would not happen.
I have reached a point where I’m very glad that this is so, because I am now able to publish my books in the way that I imagine them, and desire them to look. I can guarantee and take responsibility for ensuring each collection meets industry standards (including editing and proofreading), while reflecting me, the poet and writer.
I love the strength and the freedom that comes with this level of control.
Persuading readers to part with hard-won dollars to buy a book of mine is another matter and a different challenge, but being my own publisher is wonderful.
D.G. – Do I ever hear you Frank. Most of us writers hate marketing ourselves. And I am with you 100% that self-publishing gives us the creative licence to write as we see our work fit without being changed to fit the bill of what somebody else wants our books to be.
What can you tell us you’ve gained from blogging as an author?
For most of my years as a writer, I had no real expectations of becoming a published author. When I first attempted self-publication, before the advent of current technologies that make it so much more straightforward – it was exhilarating, but too hard to sustain.
I kept writing for myself and for my wife Leanne. Collection after completed collection.
Leanne determined at one point that I should start a blog on WordPress, to give myself an outlet, and a place in the public domain where I could archive my work. That became Frank Prem Poetry https://frankprem.wordpress.com/, and the folk that decided to follow my postings there became my first contemporary audience.
I can’t begin to describe the confidence that I have received and taken from these wonderful supporters. The comments alone (my conversations with folk responding to the work) number above 15,000.
The support I have received from blogging and fellow bloggers has been significant in nudging me toward publication. In fact, a number of collections of my work that either have or will be published in book form have first been written for and presented to my blog readers. They are wonderful.
D.G. – That is so wonderful Frank. Brings me back to the old saying – . . .Behind every successful man, there’s a woman cheering him on. LOL.
If you’ve published more than one book, do you find or notice your writing changes or evolves with each new book?
My writing has developed a lot over the writing journey. Perhaps I can describe the changes in two ways.
The first way has involved my use of line length, line and stanza breaks, minimal or absent capitalization and punctuation. Often, I will use one word, two word or three word lines as a way of shaping the pace of a reader. A line break to encourage a pause or emphasis, a stanza break for a breath in the reading. No reliance on the rules of written grammar to encourage reading what is on the page, not what a rule dictates.
In my head I imagine a young child, new to reading, following a line, without pause from beginning to end, a big pause and big breath before continuing the next line to the end. What I seek is provide the short line, prompt the reading pause and breath at places where I wish them to occur. Readers might like to take a look at a post in which I elaborated on this approach a little, including a worked example of what I mean https://wp.me/paAqWh-7f
I think it makes for an easier reading experience – on the page or aloud.
The second way in which my writing has changed reflects my awareness of what it takes to make a book. How many words, how many pages. This awareness provides me with a little behind the scenes structure, so that I know at what point I have a potential book, as opposed to a Work-In-Progress. For poetry, I am looking for a minimum of 100 pages before I know I have sufficient material to work with as a
D.G. – I agree Frank, after the first book, we tend to get ourselves in a groove that works with our style. Also, we need to know the rules before we break them. 🙂
Would you like to share with us what upcoming projects and/or ideas for books you’re working on?
My current focus is on producing picture poetry books. This is a whole new exercise for me and is extraordinarily challenging. I mentioned above my collection of pigeon philosophy. Each poem has a picture. This style – photographic image and accompanying poem – is a preferred approach for a lot of my work, but it makes
for difficult formatting and book production.
The way I am tackling this challenge is by using a children’s picture book format – 8.5 inch x 8.5 inch – for example, with one page (left side, say) being picture/image and the other page a poem or other text. The first collection that will actually be available as a Kindle format e-book is a book about a local group of Bears – the Beechworth Bakery Bears. The format for the e-book is what is termed a ‘spread’, which is where 2 pages are shown together, as I described above. Unlike most e-books, this is fixed format, so the text on a page remains stable and won’t ‘wrap’ on the page.
Here is one spread from the A Beechworth Bakery Bears Book (US Amazon pre-order link for July 31, 2020 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085Q7NVPJ collection:
Another collection I am working on in this style is called Voices: in the trash. This collection comes from images I found at a large collectibles and antiques barn. When I am finished preparing this collection as an e-book, I’m intending to have it as a giveaway through my Newsletter, for a limited time, so if any readers are interested, I
do hope they’ll sign on.
Here is a spread from Voices: in the trash:
If you could have any of your books made into a movie, which one would you choose and why?
Devil In The Wind https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Q9YLD8V is a collection of the voices of victims and survivors of our deadly Black Saturday Bushfires from 2009. Since then, sadly, we’ve had a similar experience on a much bigger scale during our most recent summer.
My feeling has always been that the telling of these stories would lend itself, not so much to a movie, but to performance as a dramatic play. I can see the speakers of each piece having the spotlight while they tell their tale, then fading back into darkness as the spot moves to focus on another.
D.G. – I agree Frank, that would make a dramatic play, and maybe one day that could come to fruition.
“Thank you so much for having me along, Debby. It’s been a pleasure.”
D.G. – Frank it was my absolute pleasure having you over here, and thank you for that lovely share of your reading on Youtube. Wishing you much success!
A few links to more of Frank’s poetry:
Learning to Read, Learning to Listen
Connect with Frank on Social Media:
Author Page (Newsletter sign up): https://FrankPrem.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/frankprem2
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07L61HNZ4