Brentley Frazer is a generation X contemporary Australian poet.
He is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Aboriginal to Nowhere (HeadworX, 2016), the critically acclaimed ‘nonfiction novel’, Scoundrel Days: a memoir (UQP, 2017) and academic papers on experimental creative writing.
He lives and works in the city of Brisbane in the state of Queensland, Australia.
Brentley is married and the father of two children, Jack and Vivienne.
Described by Dazed & Confused as a ‘21st century Baudelaire on acid’ Brentley’s unconventionality, radicalism, aggression, schizophrenia, non-adaptability and sublimity with hallucinogenic scenes and pornographic moments, a bizarre mix of elements of neo-symbolism and post-romanticism, wrapped in a form of hypertext prose, finds itself somewhere at the intersection of Burroughs, Breton, Rimbaud, Salinger and Ian Curtis. ~ Tribuna Magazine
Reviews of Scoundrel Days: a memoir
Reviews of Aboriginal to Nowhere: new poems 2016
This is a thoughtful and fierce collection. Frazer is a visionary at a time when humanity risks losing touch with its core animality, and the real-world places in which it finds itself. ~ Elizabeth Morten (Booksellers NZ)
Brentley Frazer’s syntax is a live wire running through poems of experience, wild imagination and considered calm. Light the blue touch paper, but do not stand clear. Full immersion is essential. ~ Anthony Lawrence
Brentley Frazer’s poetry is making it new again and in an exciting way, his lines crackle with the energy of a great technician who has something important to say. ~ Robert Adamson
…one of Australia’s most important Generation X poets. ~ Professor Nigel Krauth, Head of Creative Writing, School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, Griffith University
Brentley Frazer’s language is electric, ornate, oddly formed and brilliant, poignant, sometimes surreal images and passages abound. The longer poems have a mixture of sharp, even dazzling writing. The vocabulary is massive, events and situations are charged, and the voice of the poet compelling. These collected meditations rip apart what we image to be ‘order’ . . . Frazer performs his trademark linguistic magic, penetrating everything from personal trauma to world order. In his hand, little is left unnoticed or forgotten by the poet, who has about him both the dreamer and the theorist, whose keen eye infiltrates everything it sees. ~ Takahē Magazine
More on Scoundrel Days: a memoir by Brentley Frazer
“About six months ago, I heard from Brentley. He was crouched under a raised Queenslander, texting and smoking and sheltering from rain. He just wanted to say that UQP had agreed to publish his memoir. I said: “What, with the Yowie?” He said yes.“And with the English-Prime?” He said yes again, because they were excited by the idea of a young Australian trying to do something new with the language — as far as anyone knows, this is the first time anyone has attempted a full-length memoir without the copula. Friends have asked me: “OK, that sounds cute, but is it any good?” Which is a question forbidden under the rules. But yes. It is.” —Caroline Overington, The Australian
“It’s refreshing to find that Brentley Frazer’s memoir, Scoundrel Days, [that] provides us with that rarest of literary treats: a good dose of the shocking… Frazer is writing herein the tradition of Helen Garner, Andrew McGahan and Nick Earls. This is dirty realism at its dirtiest. I must also mention the approach Frazer has taken to writing this highly readable memoir. He uses a style called English Prime, where the verb forms of ‘‘to be’’ are excluded. The effect is subtle — so subtle that you would miss it if you weren’t aware. But it does have notable effects throughout. Mostly, it forces Frazer into a more active syntax as the demands of E-Prime preclude him from a lot of narrator-driven description. Instead, this pushes him into observations made directly by his character. The result is an outer world that reflects the inner life Brentley is experiencing. We see what he sees. The imagery is often strained to the point of insincerity and the metaphors are often mixed, but this doesn’t break the deal. The outcome is an immersive, vital prose that almost drags the reader along. This is not your ordinary memoir. Think of it more as an autobiographical novel or creative nonfiction. If, like I do, you remember the 80s and 90s as times of bohemian excess, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in Frazer’s terrific book. Beware, though: we were nastier, uglier people back then. Frazer is determined to show the truth of those days, ugliness and all.” —Rohan Wilson, The Weekend Australian
“Compelling. Frazer has chosen to write the text in English Prime… A staggering undertaking for a memoir writer. It works admirably, as it denies the opportunity to excessively navel gaze, and lends the narrative a novelistic feel.” —The Saturday Paper
“Australian author, poet and academic Brentley Frazer has released a memoir that’s been in the planning for more than 20 years – and it’s more than worth the wait. Scoundrel Days follows the story of Frazer’s youth, wading through a gritty mess of the sex, drugs and alcohol that defined his anti-authoritarian younger years, and those of the people around him. It’s an adventurous tale, as well, in Frazer’s own words: ‘If no adventures happen to you, make your own. From outback Queensland to urban Australia, you can bet Frazer has done just that.” —The Brag
“How brilliant is the writing in Scoundrel Days? Like poetry written with a nail gun. Shit he’s good. Uncommonly good. He’s got a great eye, but also a lot of muscle to his writing, and that combo doesn’t come along often enough. I hope he’s got a lot more prose in him.” —Nick Earls
“Can’t remember the last time I read anything this gritty and compelling. Frazer doesn’t write like an angel. He writes like a demon. Scoundrel Days is one of the finest Australian works in years.’ —Brett D’Arcy, winner of WA Premier’s Book Award for Mindless Ferocity of Sharks
‘With a poet’s eye for locating the marvellous within the commonplace and a novelist’s ear for the nuances and rhythms of natural speech, Brentley Frazer has crafted a unique narrative from the myths and rumours of life and a wild imagination. Scoundrel Days is fiercely original, inspirational, and will no doubt find a wide, varied readership.’ —Anthony Lawrence
‘An artist’s true journey from blindness (or, what we call youth) into glimmerings of sight (coming of age). The writing is wonderful, and the writer lives in the tradition of the Beats, yet has managed to create something new through his use of the E-prime constraint.’ —Dr Venero Armanno, author of Black Mountain and The Dirty Beat
“Poet and author Brentley Frazer recounts his rebellious youth with searing honesty in his memoir Scoundrel Days. Gritty with a lyrical cadence, the characters and violent, drug-fuelled, sexually-charged experiences he recounts are compelling for their raw detail and darkness. Frazer’s innate attraction to dissent, his untamed spirit and how it shaped his young life will sometimes shock, but makes reading his words an addiction in itself.” —Cushla Chauhan, Vogue
“Scoundrel Days is the compelling memoir from poet Brentley Frazer about his misspent adolescence in Queensland, a roller-coaster ride of wild excess and anti-authoritarian adventures told in urgent and beautiful prose ★★★★★.” —Sunday Life Magazine, READ, Sun Herald and Sunday Age
“Uncompromising in its honesty, unequivocal in its brutality, Scoundrel Days proffers the true story of a boy’s unending rampage across north Queensland… Styling himself, from age seven, as a more brutal version of Tom Sawyer, Frazer declares early his contempt for the ordinary.
In a terse telegraphic prose that brings the reader very close to the details laid down thick and terrible… the level of detail speaks to authentic recall rather than confabulation. But this writer’s mind runs on no ordinary tracks. If you want in to that audience, you’ll find Scoundrel Days an engrossing read. ★★★★” —4ZZZ
“Brentley Frazer, one of many scoundrels in his memoir Scoundrel Days, documents coming of age on the boundary of civilisation… Frazer embraces his circumstances with a kind of brash vigour … Frazer’s deft utilisation of E-Prime (where the verb ‘to be’ is elided) creates a visceral and urgent internal perspective which is both direct and poetic, often charming, and sometimes bleakly funny. As he moves from the casual and pervasive violence of his school days into a wandering and listless adolescence, drifting between Townsville and Brisbane, his growing intellect is seen second-hand via dialogue or anecdote. Given his proclivities (Byron, Plath, Hemingway), one would expect greater introspection, but this is a memoir that also tracks a fierce adherence to the philosophy of absolute freedom (he says: ‘I will never surrender’), charting its effect on relationships, and the tendency of the unrestrained id to challenge the bounds of the law. In Frazer’s case, it is a precociousness that justifies rather than redeems. Under it all lies a dark, nihilist void where, like Gordon in Andrew McGahan’s Praise (1992), expectation is seen as the root of unhappiness. But unlike Gordon, who slouches towards destruction content in the acceptance of an awed physicality, Frazer oscillates between bravado and moments of self-awareness. This enigmatic, self-styled outsider bravely lets us into the inner sanctum, which makes for a fascinating read.” —Australian Book Review
“Scoundrel Days takes the reader into each unfolding moment of Frazer’s getting of wisdom… The story at first glance resembles classic grunge, but proves much more interesting than that narrow pigeonhole suggests. Readers will revel in this wonderful piece of writing for the way it engages all the senses with its poetic language, and writers will love it for its investigation of the nature of language itself, and how the poet compresses reality into words. Frazer pushes young Brentley’s face to the windscreen of his oncoming life, and the young scribe records his most immediate impressions in his journal – episode after manic episode. Scene after scene ashes past like the view from a fast moving car. Images gather then scatter like postcards across a table as he hurtles into his future, leaving the reader to sort through them for clues. Though Brentley matures, the clarity of his narrative voice remains remarkably consistent, always from the point of view of his inner watcher, the ‘I’ we all possess that admonishes or reassures, the ‘other’ we call conscience. Scoundrel Days examines the concepts of conscience and morality and how we form them. Do we acquire the inner voice? Or does it emerge from within, inherent… Frazer puts the eye of god back where it belongs – inside the human skull, where experience processes into memory through conscious intelligence. The nascent poet looks his would-be assailants straight in the eye, bearing witness to their hypocrisy, while they feel the ire of an angry god accusing them of their sin. Having achieved escape velocity, Brentley runs flat-out into his future without a backward glance, which he knows from his reading could turn you to stone or worse, condemn you to the underworld. The archetypal fool gets the hell out of there, armed with only heart and soul and a newly acquired moral compass pointing in all directions away from the teachings of the cult. Sex and drugs and rock and roll beckon and he embarks at full tilt on a quixotic quest for his artistic holy grail: to become a poet. From the relatively dreamlike juxtapositions of childhood experiences, Brentley’s adolescence transforms into a state of hyper-alertness, with no time to pause for reflection. He refuses to acknowledge morality so readers can only assess his behaviour against their own moral compass. This cracking narrative pace creates a constant state of unfolding suspense. Apart from the few ashes of self-knowledge that come to Brentley about his own behaviour, and a couple of comments he makes regarding the way others treat their parents or partners and friends, Frazer leaves any judgement up to the reader as his concupiscent narrator engages in the ever-present act of forming meaning from the chaos of interactions that confront him. Both reader and writer look out from inside Scoundrel Days, from inside the consciousness of the unreflective narrator. Scoundrel Days is the subject of Frazer’s PhD thesis, which should become the gold-standard how-to manual on writing clear, utterly active prose. He made several attempts and discarded many drafts to create this literary memoir. The sheer inventiveness of description arrived at through the sharp focus on reality leaves no room for clichés. His beautifully modulated rhythms make the book a joy to read, but the technical accomplishment of the work goes way beyond pace and precision. Frazer achieves this desired effect using E-Prime, a version of the English language that excludes all forms of the verb ‘to be’, including all conjugations, contractions and archaic forms, making it harder for the writer or reader to confuse opinion with fact… Scoundrel Days contains enough meat for half a dozen creative writing theses … We [these] voices, writers who engage with reality, who articulate their particular perception of it with clarity and precision, and when they do emerge, we immediately recognise them: writers like Christos Tsiolkas, Charlotte Wood, Christopher Barnett, Brett D’Arcy, Elizabeth Harrower, Ruth Park, Christina Stead — and now, Brentley Frazer joins them.” —Newtown Review of Books
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Guest appearances/festivals/reviews 2003 ~ 2017
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