Afternoon everyone. Today I’ve also got a Meet the Author interview with the lovely Frank Prem. We’re talking about poetry, being fascinated by words, love at first sight, cheeky moments at school, and his most recent book, and trilogy……
Hello, Chelle, and hello readers. I’m Frank Prem, a poet and storyteller living in a small town in rural Australia. Thank you for taking time to meet me.
I write in a style of poetry that is mostly free-verse, though it has become modified and customised to suit me over a long journey that’s crossed 40 years as a writer, now.
The first poetry collections that I brought out when I started publishing at the end of 2018 focused on memoir and true story – growing up during the 1960s and 70s in Small Town Kid (2018), voices from the catastrophic Black Saturday bushfires that we experienced over here in 2009 in Devil In The Wind (2019), and with The New Asylum (2019), my memoirs of a lifetime in psychiatry, from my young childhood when my parents worked in the local mental asylum, to today as I continue to work as a psychiatric nurse.
In addition, I write a lot in a genre that I think is probably classed as Speculative Fiction – a form that has been described to me as being perhaps surreal. In this vein, I collaborated with another Australian writer (Cage Dunn) to create a tale involving Valkyries and assassins in what is perhaps a genre form of mild horror, along with Nordic mythology and a little love story thrown in. Herja, Devastation (2019), was a little out of left field, but a wonderful experience.
Most recently I have written and am in the process of publishing A Love Poetry Trilogy in 3 volumes. What I’ve done here is to take a piece of the best work by three stellar poets of a hundred years and more ago, and use each phrase or line to inspire a new, contemporary poem of my own.
And then, the next to be released will be a children’s picture book featuring some local teddy bears. I find myself hard to pigeon-hole.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
My family migrated to Australia in late 1957 from Croatia, which was then part of Yugoslavia. They came, via Germany, and settled in the little town of Beechworth, where an uncle of my father had already settled.
The township and its surrounding hinterland had a population of bout 3 – 4,000 people, and was a small but very secure, very insular place.
Today, the township is a little larger, and has become mightily dependent of tourism and passing visitors. It is suffering badly, as are so many places, through the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
What inspired you to start writing and where do you get your ideas?
I’ve always been fascinated by words. I was an early reader and was in love with my books.
There is a poem in the Small Town Kid collection that perhaps gives a hint of the way my writing life might unfold. The poem is called ‘spelling by numbers’ and it reveals a fascination with the way words form sentences. As a child I would mentally break language up into groups of three letters. I would ask myself does this next sentence fall into groups of three letters or not. For example:
Thi-s se-nte-nce loo-ks l-ike -thi-s wh-en I -put -it i-nto -gro-ups -of t-hre-e.
A peculiar fascination, but it shows me, when I look at it now, the potential for my young self to become a person who plays with words and syllables and who makes words fit the needs of the moment.
I think that was probably when my destiny to become a writer, and a poet, may have been formed.
How many books have you written and published?
I have seven collections of poetry able to be purchased, to date, with two picture books available to pre-order, as well.
Currently available books (including pre-order) are:
Small Town Kid (2018)
Devil In The Wind (2019)
The New Asylum (2019
Walk Away Silver Heart – A Love Poetry Trilogy: Book 1 (2020)
A Kiss for the Worthy – A Love Poetry Trilogy: Book 2 (2020)
Rescue and Redemption – A Love Poetry Trilogy: Book 3 (2020)
A Beechworth Bakery Bears Book (2020)
A Beechworth Bakery Bears Book (too) (2020)
Co-authored with fellow Aussie author Cage Dunn is
Herja, Devastation (2019)
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
Choosing favourites is difficult. The collections that I’ve brought out are each different from one another – memoirs that represent completely different phases or aspects of my life, love poetry that is more about emotional states of being.
My true favorite is a collection that is not available at the moment, but which I hope to re-release in 2021, called The Book of Evenings.
The Book of Evenings was my very first collection to be (self) published. I thought it was very special at the time, and still do.
I get a lot of pleasure from reading selections of the books in print to a live audience. Seeing folk react and respond to one of my memories with some of their own is a great joy.
In the absence of opportunity to read directly to people. I have begun doing some readings on YouTube. I’ll provide the link to my YouTube channel, below.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I had a cheeky moment during Secondary School where instead of submitting an essay, I wrote a poem (my first) and submitted that. I was amazed to get a good response and quite suddenly found myself popular with school mates who wanted to write a poem instead of an essay, too. Such heady days!
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
My professional career has been as a psychiatric nurse, and I still work in this field. Aspects of my journey through public sector psychiatry are the subject of of one of my collections – The New Asylum, a memoir of psychiatry.
It has been a fascinating and wonderful career. Very confronting and difficult, at times.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
I would advise myself to relax a little, and not be in so much of a hurry. Take time to learn and to enjoy the learning.
I’ve learned that believing that you have to have the knowledge at your fingertips before you’ve had a chance to learn it well is a big trap for young players.
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
Chelle, I suspect that no harm ever came from quietly reading Kahlil Gibran, and I recommend The Prophet.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I surely do, Chelle.
I encountered the lady who is now my wife of many years when she set up in a spoken-word poetry venue to sing some of her songs. That was in 2003.
I was smitten from the first time I heard her voice, and her singing.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
My most recent book is actually part 1 of a trilogy. I’ll tell a little about it below:
Walk Away Silver Heart (2020). This collection was inspired by a poem by the American poet Amy Lowell. The poem was Madonna of the Evening Flowers (1019) and I commend it readers of romantic verse. Find Madonna of the Evening Flowers here: https://www.thereader.org.uk/featured-poem-madonna-of-the-evening-flowers-by-amy-lowell/
A Kiss for the Worthy (2020). Walt Whitman and his amazing poem Leaves of Grass (1855), with its love of the world Whitman inhabited, and his personal place in that world were the inspiration for this collection. Find Leaves of Grass here: https://whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1891/poems/27
Rescue and Redemption (2020) came out of my reading of the T. S. Eliot poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915). This is an amazing poem that some have described as Eliot’s equivalent of Dante’s Inferno. I interpreted it as a love poem of sorts and responded accordingly. Find Prufrock here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/44212/the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock
I’ll provide the link to the first book – Walk Away Silver Heart for any reader wanting to follow up, but all three are available through pre-order and, of course to read for free on KU.
Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083N7LVZM
final words from chelle…
Thank you so much for your interview Frank – it’s lovely to get to know you! I love that you’ve always had a fascination with words which has led you to where you are now. That fact that you believe in love at first sight is so adorable, and put a big smile on my face – I’m so glad you found happiness with the lady that had you smitten with her voice. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that you got away with writing poetry instead of an essay – I can imagine why all your friends wanted to join in!!
If you have any questions/comments for Frank then get in touch using the links above, or drop a comment below.
Till tomorrow my lovelies….