About

“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, VogueVogue Magazine

“Scoundrel Days pays homage to lost boys who grow up to be troubled young men. Frazer ramps up the speed, scattering memories like used tissues… Frazer is a legendary protagonist, in the vein of Bukowski’s literary alter-ego … His writing is sometimes compared to that of Andrew McGahan, in particular McGahan’s coming-of-age novel Praise, but Scoundrel Days spends little time examining the consistency of its author’s bodily fluids. Instead, he uses that nervy present-perfect tense to take us further, faster, harder. It has more in common with the hyperbolic, ugly-beautiful prose of Kathy Acker.” —Jenny Valentish, Sydney Morning Herald

Brentley Frazer’s memoir, Scoundrel Days, provides us with that rarest of literary treats: a good dose of the shocking … 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 … Frazer is writing here in the tradition of Helen Garner, Andrew McGahan and Nick Earls. This is dirty realism at its dirtiest. 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.The Australian

… a visceral and urgent internal perspective which is both direct and poetic, often charming, and sometimes bleakly funny . . . 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 a flawed physicality, Frazer oscillates between bravado and mo- ments of self-awareness. This enigmatic, self-styled outsider bravely lets us into the inner sanctum, which makes for a fascinating read.Australian Book Review

Frazer’s latest collection of poems, Aboriginal to Nowhere is a love-letter to a world that ultimately rejects its people. It is a celebration of grunge, and a roll call of those things that are lame, cast-off, defunct and unlovable. It is about people divorced from the places they inhabit, and people who are disorientated in their own homes . . . Frazer’s poems find beauty in the brokenness of things. Like Kintsugi, the Japanese practice of repairing fractured pottery with gold, Frazer conjures rich images from the ‘buckets of colonial rubbish’. 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 Morton
BRENTLEY FRAZER ~ BIOGRAPHY
Brentley Frazer
Brentley Frazer Photograph RHUK Pubic Domain

Brentley Frazer is a generation X Australian writer.

He is the author of six collections of poems, most recently Aboriginal to Nowhere (HeadworX, 2016) and the critically acclaimed nonfiction novel, Scoundrel Days: a memoir  (University of Queensland Press 2017)

Brentley recently completed a PhD submission and currently lectures in creative writing at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, where he lives. 

Brentley is represented by literary agents The Author People (Sydney, Australia) – GET IN TOUCH.

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

“Scoundrel Days pays homage to lost boys who grow up to be troubled young men. Frazer ramps up the speed, scattering memories like used tissues… Frazer is a legendary protagonist, in the vein of Bukowski’s literary alter-ego… written in E-Prime, the discipline founded by Alfred Korzybski that rejects the use of the copula (the verb “to be”) in order to combat literary laziness. Frazer isn’t lazy anyway. His writing is sometimes compared to that of Andrew McGahan, in particular McGahan’s coming-of-age novel Praise, but Scoundrel Days spends little time examining the consistency of its author’s bodily fluids. Instead, he uses that nervy present-perfect tense to take us further, faster, harder. It has more in common with the hyperbolic, ugly-beautiful prose of Kathy Acker.” —Jenny Valentish, The Sydney Morning Herald

“About six months ago, I heard from him. 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 here in 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 glimpsed mostly 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

Reviews of Aboriginal to Nowhere

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

 Festivals/Guest Appearances


. A Rock & Roll Writers Festival, April 2017
. Guest Lecturer/Artist – AAWP 21st Annual Conference, Nov 2016, University of Canberra
. Guest Editor (Bareknuckle Books Launch) Brisbane Writers Festival, September 2016
. Guest Artist – Queensland Poetry Festival August 2016
Guest Artist – AAWP 20th Annual Conference, Dec 2015, Swinburne University, Melbourne.
. Guest Lecturer – Griffith Centre for Cultural Research Annual Symposium, November, 2015
. Guest Artist – Couplet Poetry Series – Brisbane City Square Library, November 2015
. Guest Artist – Howl 60th Anniversary Reading, Avid Reader, Brisbane, October 2015
. Guest Artist – Brisbane Writers Festival, September 2015
. Guest Lecturer – AAWP 19th annual Conference, Wellington N.Z, Dec 2014 

. Guest Artist – Reality Bites Creative Nonfiction Festival October 2014
. Guest Artist – Spoken – Queensland State Library, January 2012
. Guest Artist – Oxfam Bookfest Poets Series,  London July 2009
. Guest Artist – Wellington International Poetry Festival New Zealand 2004
. Guest Artist – National Poetry Festival 2004
. Co Founder – Speed Poets 2003 – 2005
. Guest Artist – Brisbane Writers Festival October 2003
. Guest Artist – Queensland Poetry Festival  1999-2003
. Event Coordinator – The Vision Area, Ric’s Bar, Brisbane 1998-2000
. Guest Artist – National Young Writers Festival 1998
. Guest Artist – Brisbane Fringe Writers Festival 1993-1998

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PRESS

 

 

Review of KULTURKAMPF in Poetry New Zealand

Brentley Frazer. Kulturkampf: Selected Poems 1995-2015. ISBN 978-0-9941861-1-9. Brisbane: Bareknuckle Books, 2015. RRP AUS$ 15.95 (+ $5 p+p). 114 pp.

Brentley Frazer.25x6.87_Front_CoverA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, most young poets were constrained to write parodies of The Waste Land. These were all much of a muchness and best forgotten, but Brentley Frazer’s new book presents ‘A Greener Pasture’ – one of the better Eliot parodies I’ve read. It starts out:

April gets hot here, lizards mate on cracked footpaths, pre-mix aluminium Bacardi cans stir desire for the drought to break; memory of dull roots, thirst for rain. Couldn’t get warm at all last winter, it figuratively snowed. (‘1. She Kissed Your Arse Goodbye’)

The full poem moves along briskly, making sense in its own world without the painful hiccups that parodies often suffer while proving how witty they are. And how has this wondrous event come about? According to the author’s abstract on www.academia.edu, he has used a combination of two oulipo devices, homophony (imitation of sound) and homosemantic translation (imitation of sense) (more or less!). It isn’t The Waste Land but it feels like The Waste Land, a very good exercise if you can do it, and he has certainly done it. A difficulty (or success) in writing with many constraints is that if you are doing it very well indeed, the trick is hard to spot – unless it is a conspicuous one like dropping out a particular vowel or punctuation mark. I suspect that most/all of the poems in this book are done with specific constraints in mind, which means it’s nearly impossible for me to comment on Brentley’s technique. He has elsewhere spoken of his devotion to E-Prime (English Prime, dropping aspects of to be), but I have no idea how to spot the technique in use. The poems are all readable and fluent, even on vastly different topics.A second suite of poems is ‘A Factory of Shadows’ – again I can’t guess the constraints, but it feels like a free-for-all version of The Divine Comedy with a mega-cast: Lucifer, Krishna, Jesus, Shiva, and Buddha (for starters) emote back and forth while going in for a good bit of derringdo, ending up sounding like open-mic night complete with fencing foils. But the topics are all tried and true ones, ones for which we have no solution yet. One character begins:

– I am the Son of a Star. You won’t find what you’re looking for here, in The Factory of Shadows. All of this is an illusion; you have been institutionalized by language, concluded values based on an error in your understanding. You are in a cemetery disguised as side-show alley, and is answered:– Ok…wow! I said, gesturing him to sit. That’s random. How do you fit?

The debate gets heavier, and answers appear imminent. Then:

And I, intoxicated with the wine and the hash Shiva had provided and the pulse of the music, forgot my place. Damn you, Dark Lord, I shouted. Now I’m right back where I started. (all from ‘4. Fornication Boulevard’)

And that’s it. A virtual person from Porlock (who has already appeared hither and yon as a place-holder for Prufrock) stops the clock again. That’s a major constraint, if you want to look at it that way … unless, I guess, you’re from Porlock yourself.Read the full issue of Poetry New Zealand Year Book 2 2015http://www.poetrynz.net/pdf/PNZ50.pdf. . .

 

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Baudelaire of the 21st century. On acid.
Of Brentley Frazer or the man who knows too much

LANA DURJAVA TRIBUNA MAGAZINE June 2012
http://www.tribuna.si/casopis/Tribuna_junij_2012_web.pdf
(translated from the Slovenian)

Language is a virus. Language infects. Language alienates people and kills their authenticity. Language cleaves and generates repression. Language is the basic mechanism of  subordination to the ruling power. Brentley Frazer, Australian poet, painter, photographer, Gonzo journalist and the founder and editor of literary magazine Retort Magazine, is all too aware of these roles and functions of language. But still. In his works the language is surely at least up to a certain level maintaining the characteristics mentioned above, but it is, nevertheless, becoming a tool of rebellion against the said, on the exploitation based principles. One could say that the language in Frazer’s poetry becomes a tool of exposing the true nature of postmodern relationships of power. Frazer is systematically and effectively using the discourse of oppressors in the fight against themselves.

Frazer considers the modern world as a sick reality where individuals are reduced to the status of sitcom characters and where the basic characteristic is the dominant role of the rules that are dictated by the interests of mega-corporations and the categorical imperative of greed. The author agrees with Phillip K. Dick (whose influences are highly noticeable in Frazer’s poetry) that modern society is largely based on the principle of imprisonment, where the prisoners have never known freedom and are consequently convinced that they are actually independent, free and unsubdued. With the more or less sophisticated help of all-permeating propaganda carried out by the family, school and media, they are brutally interpellated and deeply infatuated with the system of lies and half-truths to the point that they are voluntarily and without any thought submitting themselves to the the state-sponsored brainwashing and uncompromising sanctioning of everything and everyone who dares to cross the line of subordination and mediocrity.

Frazer interprets the modern man more or less in the meaning of fragmented pieces of nothingness, surrounded by a collection of illusions, he is perceiving him primarily as a product of evolution, which has deviated from its way, as a robot, programmed to obey, as a potential which could have been, but was not realized, as a digital insect that is asleep way overdue and that should be immediately woken up and faced with reality which is situated somewhere at the intersection of Bentham’s Panopticon, Zamjatin’s glass paradise and Debord’s society of the spectacle. The constitutive elements of the modern human are not much more than a castrated freedom, emotional mutilation and intellectual disability, whereas the modern society is more or less just a parade of enslaved and manipulated sheep who have voluntarily enchained themselves, as well as failed miserably in terms of pursuing individuality and realization of creative pulses. Frazer’s poetry is an intense criticism of political, economic, social and cultural hierarchy, it is a frontal attack on mechanized and sterile hell, which is characterized by the significantly paternalistic political mantra, epidemic consumerism and sophisticated and perpetual raping with morality that is based on the accounting books. Frazer is also not growing any particular illusions about the Left and its potential for taking over the role of the bearers of change. His works give a clear knowledge that this is a man who has seen and knows a little bit too much to be able to afford such naiveté. It is all too perfectly clear to him that all left-wing theory and practice, despite its  false pretences, ultimately do not offer much more than only eternal critical analysis of history as false fabrication of centers of power, analysis, which sooner or later always overlooks the fact that revolutions only bring a new master, whereas the mechanisms of exploitation remain in the long run more or less the same.

Frazer was once described as the Salvador Dali of written word. On the other side, Dazed & Confused defined him as Baudelaire of the 21st century on acid. The two descriptions (which do not hold much distinguishment between each other), were in all likelihood related to his unconventionality, radicalism, aggression, schizophrenia, non-adaptability and sublimity, to the continuing themes of hallucinogenic scenes and pornographic moments, to the bizarre mix of elements of neo-symbolism and post-romanticism, wrapped in the form of hypertext poetry that due to its atmosphere and the cut-up technique it strongly reminds of Burroughs and occasionally Thompson. Frazer’s poetry otherwise looks as if it was written by someone going through comedown which is relenting and mutating into cynicism without bitterness. As far as anger is still present, it is more or less subtle, even though it is periodically still noticeable in the form of an allergy to the acute apathy, obedience, intellectual impotence and voluntary enslavement of modern society and man as such. All together it slightly reminds of Dick and Kafka, although the atmosphere is not as terribly stuffy and hopeless. By all means is Frazer deeply disillusioned by the man and its turn-out, but he has, nevertheless, not entirely given up upon his ability to change. It goes without saying that the truth in a modern society is wrongly diagnosed and constituted mostly out of the perverse ideology, with the dominance of the law of average that cripples all the others, but there is still hope for the man to wake up from the omnipresent nightmare he has signed himself up for. The key to awakening is the breaking of all old illusions, giving up on the blind faith in progress and connivance of the true nature of reality that surrounds us, a reality that is nothing but the world of lies and simulacra, Valium and Vicodin, in which a man is permanently abandoned by God and brutally left to himself and himself only.

When Frazer’s poetry goes in the direction of intimacy, it finds itself somewhere at the intersection of Breton, Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Ian Curtis. Whatever the formulation, there is always a focus on the magic of the moment, caught up in a wave of mostly subtly expressed regret that something could have happened, however, it did not occur. All the lies you have told, when you meant to tell the truth.Poetry serves to Brentley a bit as a drug,  a bit as a political statement, but mostly and especially as a therapy. It does not have much of Aristotle’s cognitive function nor any particular epiphanic value. In any case, his poetry can be described as a method and mechanism of existing, but it is primarily and mainly still a coping technique or should we say, a treatment of a sick mind.

The same could probably also be said for the audience.

LANA DURJAVA
TRIBUNA MAGAZINE June 2012
http://www.tribuna.si/casopis/Tribuna_junij_2012_web.pdf

deeperunderground

DEEPER UNDERGROUND: BRENTLEY FRAZER
DAZED&CONFUSED MAGAZINE AUS/NZ VOL 01 #5 Oct-Nov 2007

Out-spoken and provocative, Brentley Frazer is publishing poetry that others dare not touch. Brentley Frazer may have won critical acclaim in respcted literary journals around the world, but Australia has never been quite sure what to do with this Melbourne based Poet, who comes across as a 21st Century Baudelaire on acid. “I dont believe that I’ve been accepted at all,” the 35 year old says,. “It’s like unwritten law that new poets have to somehow impress the old guard to gain acceptance, and by acceptance I mean publishing opportunities.”

Through his last three major collections, Frazer has maintained a steady attack upon the politico-economic social hierarchy, while still managing to touch at the heart of modern dislocation. “I guess my main theme is that the individual is able to see through ‘the game’ and gain a better self-definition in the process.” Some of Frazer’s latest works delve into the brave new world of ‘hypertext poetry’ in which sentences and paragraphs can be rearranged or read in a multi-linear manner – a bit like a child’s choose your own adventure book. In this way, as well as through his use of hallucinogenic images and juxtapositions, many have compared Frazer’s writing to that of William S. Burroughs and Kafka. Considering these influences, Frazer recognises: “These other artists have understood that language is a virus – literally, a virus that has hitched a ride on the pure cells of the real mind.

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BLACK MAGIC –  The Courier Mail  Brisbane Australia 12 Sep 2003

In the introduction to Brentley Frazer’s first book of poetry, A Dark Samadhi, esteemed Canadian writer Robert M Smith states that ‘500 years from now, the dictionary will describe George W Bush as having lived in the time of Brentley Frazer”. It’s high praise for a writer who, despite his formidable overseas reputation, is relatively unknown in his hometown of Brisbane. But as a poet and founding editor of online literary and art journal Retort Magazine, Frazer has gained an international reputation as one of the most innovative of contemporary writers. Of Smith’s comments he says: ” I was too afraid to put it in the book, but the publishers thought it was a good idea … But the accolades don’t stop there. His work has been compared with that of William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski and Clive Barker, and he recently made the list of the Muse Apprentice Guild’s top 500 American poets – strange considering he has never set foot on the US continent. ” I’ve been published in so many really reputable American Magazines I guess they thought I was American. My old bio doesn’t say I was from Australia – maybe on purpose,” he adds, grinning. It’s a misconception particularly evident of the times, thanks to the internet and its ability to share art unhampered by traditional geographic boundaries. Retort, now 2 1/2 years old, attracts more the 500,000 hits per edition (three quarters of these from overseas), with Frazer’s personal site not lagging far behind. Frazer says his popularity overseas can simply be attributed to demographics. “A cult following in America is a million people,” he explains. “In Australia, it’s 100.” He plans to tour the US in early 2004 to promote the release of A Dark Samadhi, which is the first publication devoted exclusively to his work. Frazer’s reasoning for a foray into print is simple: ” I am hoping my book will give me more than 3 meals a week,” he says, laughing. The title of the book, A Dark Samadhi, refers to what Frazer calls  “a dark enlightenment”. “Some things I was going through opened my eyes and it wasn’t all pretty but I attempted to find beauty in the dark.” Yet despite the books undeniably dark and arresting aura, Frazer says the main theme of the work is hope. “It goes through the whole range of human tragedy and comedy but underneath it is hope, which is what the protagonist of this book is enlightened to, amongst all the darkness of the current situation that I, myself, as a poet, and other artists find themselves in in this day and age.” While his work has been labeled political, Frazer says it wasn’t a conscious aim. ” The book does contain some particular aversions but it doesn’t set out to point the finger at any particular regime,” he says. ” I have been accused of being political, but language is political, I guess I can’t avoid betraying some of my politics with my language.” Instead, Frazer’s inspiration to write flows from a wide-eyed fascination with life. ” I write because I am constantly amazed at life. It’s just so full on,” he says, ” If you stop to think for a minute: we don’t even know what we are. We’re kind of self-defined two-legged animals. I think poetry is one of those ultimate art forms that helps comprehend a situation.” As for accusations that his work is challenging or confronting, Frazer answers that: “Poetry isn’t meant to be easy. Good art is never really easy.” Or, maybe it’s just that, as writer Fakie Wilde says in the books introduction: “You can only write literature like this if you are a really weird person.” –Hannah Brooks

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from Prat Magazine Issue #1 2003

A Review of A Dark Samadhi
[Brentley Frazer: PC Press ISBN 0-9750397-0-9 Australia 2003] Prat Magazine February 2003 Issue 1 pp 12-15

Poets have long been acknowledged as an intellectual group that hold unique abilities to shape public thought. Their historical position at the very forefront of social, political, and cultural change has meant that one of the first actions of aspiring dictators has long been to silence those that weild the lyric word. Brentley Frazer may not be a name that has graced international bestseller lists as yet, but in A Dark Samadhi he is revealed as one of the greatest writing talents of our time. This collection of poetry and microtext is a fearlessly confronting yet utterly compelling dissection of the modern human condition. It overpowers, then drags its reader on a twisted journey through the dark alleyways and slum neighbourhoods of the universal metropolis. Frazer speaks with the unnerving conviction of an angry young citizen who has seen and knows too much. His words impact like bullets shot from a gun, and at books end, a graphic yet profound picture has been sprayed across the canvas of the readers mind. However, Frazer is not content to merely sicken or alarm, and swirling above the fire and fury is a sense of splendour and grace. It is this desperate struggle between redemption and damnation that earn A Dark Samadhi its masterpiece tag.

This, the fifth collection of Frazer’s work, is sure to confirm the cult status that Frazer commands within underground circles. His first 4 collections, all self published offerings, sold out within hours, and it seems an outrageous travesty that the publishing world has waited this long to identitfy his unmistakable talent. Here is writer that has been included in some of the most prestigious international compilations, has been the recpient of numerous accolades including a description as ‘ the Salvadore Dali of the written word,’ and yet it has taken some five years for a serious publishing contract to come his way. This lack of mainstream interest can probably be best attributed to Frazer’s inexorable ability to shock and unsettle, even against a backdrop almost uniform apathy. Or perhaps the umbrella of patriotism inspired censorship under which publishers are currently operating, has led to Frazer being placed in the ‘too hot’ basket until now. Whatever the case, the wait is over, and this is one author that will receive his due reward, as A Dark Samadhi captures the international attention that it so rightfully deserves.

On top of his print acreer, Frazer is the founder and editor of retortmagazine.com, an online journal of poetry and art that boasts in excess of 1000 000 hits per edition. The gravity of this statistic is only truly appreciated when it is understood that no formal publicity has ever occurred. Over half of the site’s visitors come from North America, where word of mouth has also aroused the interest of Australian, US, and other world governments, suggesting that the power of the poetic word is something that still evokes fear within the corridors and cubicles of political power. Such attention only confirms the threat to the status quo that a literary genius like Brentley Frazer represents.

A DARK SAMADHI
Melbourne Launch October 2003
Speech/Review by Brett Dionysius
© Copyright Brett Dionysius 2003

Early on in A Dark Samadhi, we get an indication of the type of poetry manifesto that Brentley Frazer has been writing for well over a decade now, his sublime, neo-symbolic, maladapted, but forward thinking imagined world. In the poem “Abstract Building (hands)” Frazer suggests that, “We all have the technology, access to the symbols, the perfume to/make it pretty, the gloss to make it sell. Only a few in the herd hear the word, a particular sleight of syllable.” Frazer is like the first beast of a bewildered pack to sense a new danger, to flare its nostrils, lift its head, and hunt for the source of this unarticulated malice.

A universal “I” rages throughout this text; a disturbed, triumphant, paranoid, self-proclaimed inheritor of our neural system meltdowns, that unleashes multi-tonal diseases to ravage the ‘lyric’ carcass. This is anti-lyric (anti-high aesthetic, capital “P”) poetry at its very best; the signification of human experience is rarely epiphanous, reality is almost always discordant, a come down of intellectual and emotive grief, “East of certainty that’s for sure” As the poet relates in the poem “Juggling with Nothing”, “we crossed the void in yellow linen safari/suits, carrying mobile phones and a giant stash of miracle/thirst quenchers. Truth, beside you, carries two things, and neither seem useful.” The history of Western philosophy and religion is inverted by the slick techno-gods, cast down into metaphysic ruin, and out of these ontological ashes society grows a new dream skin; mottled, alien the Petri dish filthy.

In A Dark Samadhi the human soul puts up brave resistance against the forces of ‘Narrowspeak’ as Les Murray has called them or ‘Newspeak’ as George Orwell did. These forces that even now put a knee in the small of the worlds’ back & apply excessive political, social, economic and cultural pressure. In the poem “Memorandum for the Birds” Frazer describes our apparent powerlessness against the technocrats, oilmen and industrial-military complex; “You could have just taken me apart with/the ease of a machine.” Sounds just like when US soldiers opened up with MI Bradley Fighting vehicles & 30 calibre machine guns on a van during the Iraq War, containing an extended family, that quickly became brutally “unextended”. But Frazer rallies us against this defeat of our common and resistant psyche as in, “Watering an Uneasy Beast”, when he warns us against becoming “digital insects” and suggests that we, “don’t just give them something to read, infect them with a memory.”

Frazer is post-romantic in his investigation of the 21st century human condition; as this line from “Plastic Daffodil” suggests; “Her mouth is where I hung my soul, an ode in a round window.” This sentiment undercuts both our 19th century romantic and 20th century colloquial assertions of the ‘self’. Or even musing on the mystery of universal suffering as in the poem, “Tempting Sleep”, Frazer looks for the abnormal, even the para-normal to explain these, “Exit wounds without an entry point”, but discovers instead, a banality of human metaphysics overridden by hyper-natural despair, or “a dance of movement on the back of a wardrobe, an intricate waltz bled there by wood.”

For Frazer, we inhabit a ‘shapeless’ body that is yielding to the ministrations of conventional dogma, becoming dumber, obese, brain dead and impotent as in “A Dog Theology” where “the blunt edge of shadows hit us through phonebooks”, or not surprisingly, we inhabit all three states simultaneously, a “kingdom of joined together heads. A tinny symphony of cheap die-cast clockwork, a little lonely if it happens to be evening.”

A Dark Samadhi is Philip K Dick melded with Andre Breton; a Rimbaud modified to produce the diaspora of Ballard. This is a post-surreal, techno-lingual savvy text that uses the oppressor’s corporatist and jingle-laden language against them. Like the smart arse kid who always sat at the back of the class and pushed the Maths teacher that little bit further, until the imploded in hollow anger, Frazer tempts the reader to counter-experience the world as we know it, to reorganize and reprocess our consumer enhanced daze. Or as the poet says in ‘Blood Psalm’, “…What do you do, there is no menu bar on the screen.”

A powerful, brooding voice in contemporary Australian and International poetry, a voice that has (secretly) simmered away for ten years, has now shifted to the front hot plate of human debate, the heat turned up. I declare A Dark Samadhi: poems and microtexts duly launched.

Brett Dionysius
© Copyright Brett Dionysius 2003

wellington

Speedpoets, Best of 2003, Impressed Publishing. ISBN 0-9751618-3-0. price $A16.45.Reviewed by Justin Lowe There is a vibrant scene in Brisbane, by all accounts, right across the creative spectrum, and in the past few years it has produced some formidable poetic talents – Paul Hardacre and Brentley Frazer being the two towering figures to emerge so far, in my humble opinion. In fact, this collection opens with a generous sample of Frazer’s work, and I’m still undecided whether that was a wise decision on the editors’ part. You see, Frazer knows precisely what he wants to say. He goes straight to the heart of the matter, but once he’s in there he likes to take a look around. All his poems are journeys. He seems to have an entire universe stored away in his head just bursting to get out, and his mastery of poetic and narrative technique is at times truly breath-taking. Like all true artists, he makes it all seem so effortless. Unfortunately, at least for this collection, nothing else that follows comes anywhere near the mark.

Speedpoets, Best of 2003, Impressed Publishing. ISBN 0-9751618-3-0. price $A16.45.Reviewed by Justin Lowe


beautiful, unfinished – MTC Cronin (Salt Publishing,2003)
a dark samadhi – Brentley Frazer (PC Press, 2003)
Reviewed by Justin Lowe

As a young, pimply, virginal adolescent I was much taken by Andre Gide, by the loss of mind (and apparent intent) and the proximity of (writing) hand to heart. It seemed like the word of God to me, nebulous as my own pubescent desires. But over a relatively brief period the lustre faded. What had before seemed pure and spontaneous suddenly seemed stilted and contrived, as though some great violence had been visited upon me. I felt empty again, deaf to the song of the world. Then I discovered the visceral outpourings of Nabokov, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Joyce, Pound, Celan et al. They became great friends of mine, but the pang of that first love never left me and nothing could quite replace it. I’m sure most of you know what I mean. Nothing smells like the first car we sat in, the first person who ever kissed us back.

However I have been fortunate enough to survive not just into a new millenium, but into an entirely new epoch. One in which peace is proving more deadly than war, where democracy has become galvanized as the dictatorship of the mean, and where the word has been poked and prodded so often by the spin doctors of either God or Caesar that it has come out of hibernation with teeth bared and foaming at the mouth

Why can we not find out
more than television?
Sitting side-by-side
like two identical buildings
we cannot feel god
Cannot feel the pitch-black pain
of the joined

(MTC Cronin – Canto LXV)

A sentence for you. We are in a lake and glory floats past
us. On her shoulder perched a very complex nightingale;
with silent finger points at an animal in the camera. Only a
clown lights a fire and laughs as he puts it out. Fear would
then rise up with its battalion of shadows, part animal part
angel, as I had imagined it. War in the evenings when
insects beat their wings. War in your hair this morning.

(Brentley Frazer – 365 Day Guarantee)

For 10,000 years poets have been asking: why war? There has never been a satisfactory answer, but what these two books tell me is that perhaps war is simply because it alone of all our dubious progeny fuses us to the moment. In war past and future all but evaporate, the moment is everything and here we have two poets not only brave enough to face up to this new doubly terrifying universe, but who possess the requisite genius (by which I mean dexterity) to take a handful of that awful perennial moment and sculpt it before it dries like clotted blood

I, like a dejected apostle, have so rarefied the organ of
sight and the use of symbol as avenue for observation that
I have become a sinner in the pantomime. God, from his
box seat up in the exclusive members area may have said –
where do you begin, o dancer, to sing the chorus from all
those tragedies you so despise; and then – are you mute
child or are there weeds in your ears?

(Brentley Frazer – Writing Proverbs in the Mould)

We have no more need of these lands
The sky has a very hard heart
And we want it to
There is a peculiar trust in the tyrant
Who knows how brittle bone
Was it the air that snapped our legs and broke our arms?
But looking up there is no answer
Slay the dragon knave and the fairytale may come back to our
hearts
in music
We have need of the land for graves
Flowerful

(MTC Cronin – Song of Bone)

There was a time not so long ago when I didn’t believe poetry of such tragic intensity and mercurial wit would ever be written (let alone published) in this nation of kitchen bards. To be honest, I never imagined in even my most intense hydro/amphetamine see-sawing visions, that times would ever get this tight. That I, like Milosz, would be huddled in a doorway watching bullets tear up the street to my home. Indeed, that we would all be held hostage by the very air we breath, by which of course I mean language. I guess I should have read my Milosz more closely.

Of the two poets, Cronin is far more prone to the historic kaleidoscope, Frazer far more suspicious of stories passed down to us as fact. If I could fault him it would be on this point, except there’s no fault on his part, only a point, and that point is literally that: not anything as tremulous as an argument or a posture, nothing that casts a shadow

In this boat on these waters
I have floated before, tho’
then, the arms that reached
to save me had no hands, and
now I feel their nails pierce
my palms.

I have been brave enough
to wash my own blood from
the planks and in the process
learned a thing or two of love
but now as the water fills my
lungs, all I want to do is dance.

(Brentley Frazer – The Drowning Review)

Where Frazer has perhaps argued with History in private, Cronin prefers to do her arguing on the page

I am numb to the last pain
of the last man

so many eyes
a common moon

violence comes hopefully up
from misused hands

only a necessity
like the well sunk

where there was no water
and digging by my side

the man whose face
I couldn’t see

trying to drink
the earth from a tin

(MTC Cronin – From a Tin)

It is important stuff, this. For too long there was only speak or listen, noise or silence, but in this new epoch there are no barricades, no front lines, no sparring. All is stealth and subterfuge, the visceral made manifest where poets laugh and cry over the same tiny word. Anyone who wants to know who fired off those flares on the pitted horizon should buy these books. Like the times they’re razor wire sharp and wild and ancient as the last lie uttered with a smile.

Justin Lowe
Katoomba 7/8/03

Festivals/Guest Appearances

. Guest Artist – AAWP 20th Annual Conference, Dec 2015, Swinburne University, Melbourne.
. Guest Lecturer – Griffith Centre for Cultural Research Annual Symposium, November, 2015
. Guest Artist – Couplet Poetry Series – Brisbane City Square Library, November 2015
. Guest Artist – Howl 60th Anniversary Reading, Avid Reader, Brisbane, October 2015
. Guest Artist – Brisbane Writers Festival, September 2015
. Guest Lecturer – AAWP 19th annual Conference, Wellington N.Z, Dec 2014
. Guest Artist – Reality Bites Creative Nonfiction Festival October 2014
. Guest Artist – Spoken – Queensland State Library, January 2012
. Guest Artist – Oxfam Bookfest Poets Series,  London July 2009
. Guest Artist – Wellington International Poetry Festival New Zealand 2004
. Guest Artist – National Poetry Festival 2004
. Co Founder – Speed Poets 2003 – 2005
. Guest Artist – Brisbane Writers Festival October 2003
. Guest Artist – Queensland Poetry Festival  1999-2003
. Event Coordinator – The Vision Area, Ric’s Bar, Brisbane 1998-2000
. Guest Artist – National Young Writers Festival 1998
. Guest Artist – Brisbane Fringe Writers Festival 1993-1998


Researchgate Profile

Austlit.edu.au – http://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/A67755

TROVE – http://trove.nla.gov.au/result?q=(Frazer+Brentley)

TRIBUNA FEATURE – pge 4-5
http://www.tribuna.si/casopis/Tribuna_junij_2012_web.pdf

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

The author image above was released to public domain from inception by The Author and may be freely used in reference to The Author Brentley Frazer

All texts/extracts/images associated with Scoundrel Days © The Author/University of Queensland Press. For permission relating to Scoundrel Days please contact UQP directly.

All other texts/images unless otherwise attributed © Brentley Frazer