the greatest australian surrealist poet ever to be undiscovered!
why did Frater write?
“For the sake of confession and performative exorcism… to produce illuminative seizures in my audience…”
i’m hungry alberta, give me a population
what was Frater’s goal?
“To be recognised and respected for the work I do, to provide a unique perception, to survive.”
show him a wall, climbing up a bug
when and where
February 1979 – July 2007, Campbelltown, New South Wales, Australia.
Benjamin Frater lived and worked in the local areas of Campbelltown, Greenacre, Minto and Woollongong. Benjamin’s family managed hotels and pubs in Western Sydney. Energised by his hometown he wrote at all hours in any location. His poems are like urban bush ballads which captured particularities of this region.
Frater performed high-powered poetry with friends – the Syntactical Activists – in local pubs, cafes and bars. He was an intense performer who really meant what he wrote, read and said. Benjamin was very good with sound – he modulated his poems with his breathing and broke his words down to molecules. Electric, awesome and respected as a local rock star poet.
who supported? who inspired?
Frater’s creativity and imagination was developed, encouraged and valued by friends and family.
Frater’s mother nurtured his creative writing. His community school teacher considered him exceptionally gifted and talented, guided his written expression and led his research into new areas of interest. Benjamin’s lecturers at Wollongong University recognised his adventurous talent and abilities to travel with big long lines of poems, swept along with surreal subject matter. They fed him and his friends with poetry and suggestions, impressed with aptitudes for grasping concepts of literary movements, and developed Benjamin’s devotion to poetry.
Frater referred to Ginsberg as his poetry father. Ginsberg inspired him in life and poetry – Frater merged both completely. He was particularly impressed with the French Surrealists (including Artaud) and the way Surrealism brings visions together with poetry. Benjamin’s advanced skills in combining unlinked ideas or objects made his work significant, humorous and distinctive. Ideas are the way we understand the world, daily objects are within it. He collided these worlds with his poetry.
Frater thought deeply and read widely, other favoured writers included Blake, Milton and Pound. Benjamin would listen to their recordings and read them aloud to experience them. He wrote constantly and pasted his poems on his apartment’s walls.
Frater remembered experiences of domestic violence – his family recognised these experiences in his writing – and starting experiencing depression around the age of fifteen. Many of his surreal poetic images described his hallucinations and nightmares. Benjamin had a severe experience of mental illness roughly once a year and felt the treatments of medications and E.C.T. compromised his creativity. He struggled with the side effects of the treatments yet still wrote poems while ill. He died in 2007 as a result of ‘medication misadventure’.
adapted from Pray Ho’tell
Pray Ho’tell was written and narrated by Lisa Nichol. Technical production and sound design by Timothy Nicastri. Associate producer Ros Bluett.