“But in the Wine-presses the human grapes sing not nor dance:
They howl and writhe in shoals of torment, in fierce flames consuming,
In chains of iron and in dungeons circled with ceaseless fires,
In pits and dens and shades of death, in shapes of torment and woe”
William Blake wrote as though he experienced every word, felt every emotion, died every death. Romantic, idiosyncratic, mystical, this millenial poet of the 18th-19th Century saw visions, even painting them.
Wordsworth said of him: “There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott”
Benjamin Frater is an almost unknown Australian poet of the 21st Century. He deserves more recognition:
“For I am the naked angel of
Imagination who soars in wrathful
Ecstasy with sceptre of Violet hyacinth
weaving euphorically, madly
in the face of eternity, spilling my seed
fearlessly, who at sunrise, noon, sunset, and
midnight bursts into flames in frustration at the failure of poetry to puncture
the ironclad ears of Ignorance! Apathy!
Stupidity! And thus I fall in
Yes, his words are conceived out of Blake, and Ginsberg, and French Symbolists, and French Surrealists, and Beat Poetry. Frater draws from them and adds a dash of post-Modernism.
From The Repossession of Sacrarium:
“Bureaucracy has choked the great minds of this
Aristocracy has made them poor
and religion fails a failing light…”
I wanted to read Frater after hearing his story on a superb program called 360documentaries (ABC Radio National, Australia). Presented by Kirsti Melville @kirstimelville and produced by Lisa Nicol, you can download the program here, complete with his bio and live readings. It is no-holds-barred, and it will test your emotions.
Brought up in Sydney’s western suburbs, Ben Frater worked mainly out of the University of Wollongong. A small collection of his verse titled 6am In The Universe is published by Grand Parade Poets (2011). It comes with a CD. I bought mine from an online Aussie bookstore Gleebooks who have stock, and great service.
Here Frater calls us to arms:
“Everybody will slumber in catacombs
Electric bulbs will be abolished and angelic
lanterns will replace barbaric light
The imagination will be celebrated daily
the muse worshipped in Nietzschean temples
the sepulchre of cranium will burst
Poet and artist will become monks
but we will do more than grimly moan mantras;
we will create, recreate, annihilate, abolish and
Ginsberg will howl the recipe for heaven
Baudelaire will teach the joyous flight upon the
wings of madness”
There is an engaging Youtube of one of Frater’s readings:
Ben Frater had schizophrenia. He struggled with his disease. He died in 2007 after a misadventure with his medication. I encourage you to read his obituary by Australian poet, mentor and friend Alan Wearne. Frater was, all too briefly, a great poet.
William Blake again:
“He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun-rise”