CLOZAPINE CLINIC—THE FRATER PROJECT

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image credit: Cole Young

Verity La presents Clozapine Clinic—The Frater Project, an editing collaboration between Alise Blayney and Tim Heffernan. The Clozapine Clinic Project, inspired by the surreal poetry of the late Benjamin Frater, seeks to publish writing which engages with experiences of individual and societal madness, and which highlights the creativity, synchronicity and meaning that can come with that experience. We aim to support writers with mental health issues who are wanting to HOWL and explore the relationship between creativity and madness. 

So, go against your brainwashing grain. We want ‘over-acuteness of the senses’ (cheers Edgar). We want political INcorrectness, we want more RAW mind. As real as you can stand it. We’ll cop it. We want passion and pen-ink stain, we want rage and hurt and tenderness, we want synchronicity and dignity of RISK. We want vulnerability, honesty and how that redeems itself on the page. We want empowerment and transformation of consciousness, we want AGAPE that stands the heartache of time. So draw back your bow — WE want YOUR arrow!

For this project, we primarily welcome submissions of poetry, but are happy to consider fiction, nonfiction, essay, multimedia — and anything in between.

We welcome previously unpublished works by emerging and experienced writers from anywhere in the world.

Submissions via our Submittable. This is an ongoing project, with no deadline. Submissions will be read and published throughout the year.

Psst…to find out more about Tim, Alise, Ben and the origins of the Clozapine Clinic Project, listen to our Mad Poets Podcast.

To purchase Ben’s poetry collection, 6am in the Universe, visit Grand Parade Poets.

alise-blayney
Alise
 Blayney graduated as a Creative Writing student at the University of Wollongong in 2007. She is intrigued by the relationship between mental and emotional distress, and creativity.

Her chosen medium to explore this is through poetry, by exploring break-down and moving towards break-through. She is interested in the different explanatory frameworks of how people make sense of what has happened to them, and how the power of language can shape, transform and rebuild identity. She is deeply moved by seeing people become the director of their own recovery journey.

 

tim

Tim Heffernan first went mad in 1983 when Reagan was President. He first published in the Wagga Daily Advertiser in 1985 and has since got other poems out of the Cold War and into the mainstream. It is fitting that the Clozapine Clinic coincides with another actor as president — poetry needs to be political. Tim works as a peer support worker in mental health and wishes he could prescribe poetry.

ben-frater1Benjamin Frater (27 February 1979 – 4 July 2007) was a talented and original poet who, after many years suffering from schizophrenia, died at 28. Pretty much unknown to the wider poetry community, his only publication was Bughouse Meat (2003) a chapbook. At the time of his death he was working on Preyed Hotel, a fragmentary epic centred on the Green Acre Tavern (where his father is licensee) but which also grows out of the joys and sufferings which marked so much of Ben’s life. From the age of 19 he kept returning to the Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong, where he was about a semester away from finishing his degree. (Having him on campus for nine years was like having a permanent Writer in Residence!)

Three things dominated Ben’s life: poetry, his illness and the devotion between him, his family and friends. Of course, schizophrenia could make him a very demanding person at times (though the greatest demands were alas on Ben) but he was also extremely giving. As a friend and as a poet he was not a snob, and although his work was high powered and erudite, to the point of appearing elitist to some, this was a man who loved the work of Nick Cave and The Doors, who could surprise everyone by bursting into country and western numbers, and who loved playing the pokies at the Illawarra Leagues Club accompanied by a schooner of Guinness. He could use the world ‘yes!’ in conversation with great force, with his other aural trademark being a good natured giggle.

benWith the exception of the great Francis Webb, it is not in an Australian poet’s job description that they be rhapsodic, surreal and visionary. Well this is where Ben came in and even went one better, creating ‘visions’ out of Campbelltown (his home town) Greenacre and Wollongong, with acres of his imagination populated by, among other beings, threatening minotaurs, scorpions and, above all, life affirming yaks. (For whatever reason he called himself the Catholic Yak, whilst this writer was the Protestant Elk!) At times Ben’s poetry may have been large, unwieldy and frequently nightmarish, but with his extraordinary humour to back proceedings, they were always written for an audience’s enjoyment. Anyone who heard him at his best (his joint book launch with fellow poet Rob Wilson or his recent, and last, recital at the Five Islands Brewery) will attest to this, though the power of his performance was such that like Hendrix at Woodstock, he had to go last: no one could follow Ben.

His close friend Habib Zeitouneh tells how at Airds High School Ben was part of an ‘arty’ group which was respected because of their ability at winning debating competitions and academic prizes. In year 12 he organized a reading in the Matador Room at his father’s Golf View Hotel, Guilford, where over one hundred heard him read his own work, with his grandmother Florence Bond as special guest. Habib describes Florence as Ben’s first ‘go to person’ in poetry. Ten years later it was Ben who had this role, however briefly, among many younger writers of Wollongong. Earlier with Rob Wilson, Tim Cahill and Ben Michell, he had formed the Syntactical Activists, a group dedicated to poetry and undergrad goodtimes. With Rob he instituted ‘shoot outs’ marathon phone calls where each bombarded the other with words, phrases and indeed poems. Ben, although forced by his illness to so often operate on his own, was still a very loyal colleague to all.

A Photograph from Ben's Notebook

a photograph from Ben’s notebook

Ben’s love of poetry started with such adolescent staples as Pound, Eliot, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and the Beats. This expanded to include the Russian Futurists (who helped him find new verse directions) Francis Webb (whom he felt was Australia’s greatest poet) and the problematic Antonin Artaud (who could cause him great suffering). His great love was Allen Ginsberg, about whom and whose work Ben probably knew more than anyone in the country. Even better Ben’s Ginsberg was not that tiresome beatnik/hippy media construct but the serious, well educated poet who saw himself in a tradition extending back to Walt Whitman, William Blake, John Milton and Edmund Spenser. This was a club that, at no matter how junior a level, Ben wished to join. I once called him at the Greenacre Tavern, as basic a pub as any in southwest Sydney, and there he was in the bar reading Spenser’s The Faerie Queene! It was out of such (seeming) incongruities that much of his verse was assembled.

Ben’s illness combined with a quite strong reserve meant he never appeared throughout Australia on any reading or festival circuit. Nor did he submit many poems to journals. Outside of Wollongong he once read in the open section at Melbourne’s John Barleycorn Hotel and last September in Campbelltown at Mad Pride, an event centred around artists and writers suffering similarly to Ben who wished to show that psychotic afflictions didn’t invalidate what they produced. His success there was a great fillip to Ben and this, plus the love of his fiancée poet Alise Blayney and the friendship of many Wollongong writers, helped in the promise of greater things. Only hours before his death all were discussing an appearance at the forthcoming Newcastle Young Writer’s Festival.

Like similar ambitious poets (Fernando Pessoa, Thomas Lovell Beddoes) who died with gigantic plans less than fulfilled, Ben left boxes and notebooks of poems, drafts and fragments. Will Australian literature be able to accommodate a young, near to unknown, non-careerist, yet extremely prolific deceased poet? We hope so. Volumes are being planned. He is survived by his parents Howard and Denise, siblings Mathew, Nicole and Shane, a niece and nephews, Alise and many friends.

(Alan Wearne, in memoriam, 1998)

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