written by Shan Ellis
I’m sure many of our readers will already be familiar with the ingenuity and dexterity of the poet I’m lucky enough to Spotlight in this edition of the River.
Luke Prater is based in South West England, although I like to think because he was born in the fair country of Wales, that this has something to do with his lyrical deep thought poetry. We first met over a year ago on the blogosphere, it was then Luke kindly invited me to join the Facial Expression poetry circle on Facebook, a critique group where work is read and looked at honestly and critiqued plainly i.e. not a place for the thin skinned!
Luke set up the group in March 2010, mainly due to his craving for honest feedback on his own work. As a poet, he felt he wanted this feedback to grow, personally rather than taking the comments left on his blog. By June 2011, slightly over a year, the group now has 300 members, 6 admin and 3000 topics running. The group is closed and private, but is happy to accept new mwmbers who wish to learn and grow in their art. If you’re interested in spending some time with the rest of us then you can find us here. Many poets on the board have become firm friends, transcending continents, all through the power of good old constructive criticism.
(mainly the small)
“It never came to any good”,
they would say, with self-satisfied
hindsight, as if a halfwit couldn’t call that.
Then, as always, it was forgotten;
they continued chattering about
the big and the small (mainly the small),
until bodies capitulated, and higher selves
were ready, or required, to ditch the derelict.
Then, as always, they were forgotten,
even by their dogs. Those still sparring
with the breathing section of the
Life Cycle continued chattering about
the big and the small (mainly the small).
Luke in person is very witty and intelligent and has a degree in English literature and creative writing. Bought up within a liberal household with their roots embedded deeply in the alternative society, his poetry pushes the boundary of originality and thinks “out of the box” when it comes to writing, he’s been coined the “cliché dragon” of the group, in that he seeks to eradicate clichéd images and phrases from his own work and his peers. If it’s been used before and overused Luke is sure to find it out and offer a helpful replacement.
“The problem with clichéd phrasing is that it’s all been said/written/sung that way so many times since forever, that it massively loses the impact you would want it to have.”
By doing this it pushes us as participating members out of our little comfort areas, forcing us to think harder about what we’re writing. I know a few of us are extremely grateful for the opportunity of honest critique, as we’ve never had it before. Personally I can see the growth in my work over the last few months mostly due to being a FEPC member.
Circles of Sisters
There was a time
when sex was a capricious portcullis
and platonic playmates were few;
those I knew were bent, or bent the rules
and fools we felt when we lost the love,
not that I dug the push and shove, but
guys were vastly less complicated for a
hormonally elated-unelated semi-obscene
and masturbated hetero teen.
The portcullis guard was put in the stocks
and pelted with boxes of rancid tomatoes
for being a toxic incompetent sot;
his successor took the task seriously.
Mishandled once or twice, but the
emotional intellect of Circles of Sisters
buried a derelict teenage libido,
swiftly short-shrifting potential fowl-play of
an inner turkey, and chickens were made of
single-night Braves, limping lacklustre hungover.
After Custer’s last one-night stand with ten
beers in one hand, I opened my arms to Plato.
Luke is also pushing the boundaries of modern poetry in his work, introducing subtle changes to rules of literary and turning them inside out.
“The sonnet, for instance, is an arbitrary, made-up form, but it’s meter, iambic pentameter, isn’t so arbitrary. The reason it was adopted and became so common is because a) it is the closest to how the majority of us actually speak; and b) by using that meter (if you’re gonna go with metered lines), it makes absolutely damn sure that the line will flow smoothly and that their will be no doubt whatsoever as to how many stresses the line has rhythmically.
Because we are all human beings with ears/eyes/a brain, the transmission of spoken/written language from page/mouth to brain has to observe some physical laws, obviously. So it actually is partially in the realm of physics. And neuroscience too of course. That’s why there are natural laws to the craft of poetry which aren’t “made up” and easily disposable.”
An example of this is Luke’s stunning re-jigging of the rules of a Shakespearian sonnet, coming up with the amazing Stress Matrix Sonnet. This is the Sonnet version of the Stress Matrix Sonnet/Stress Checkerboard Sonnet, developed January 2011 by Luke Prater -
14 lines, 14 syllables per line – aBaB cDc DcD eF eF
where lowercase are iambic heptameter (7 beats/stresses per line), and uppercase trochaic heptameter. This yields a perfect ‘checkerboard’ of stressed and unstressed syllables (14 x 14, equalling 196 syllables). Depending on where the Volta arrives (the ‘turn’ – resolution, or at least, change in tone, crucial aspect to a sonnet), there are 3 different stanza layouts (the rhyme-scheme stays the same). If the turn comes after the first eight lines, as it does in Italian Sonnets, the layout is aBa BcDcD cDe FeF. If it comes after line ten (unique!), then it’s aBaB cDc DcD eFeF (same as English but ending on a quatrain rather than the two couplets).
His sleep was stirred before the burgeoning of dawning sun.
Regularly, years, despite vicissitudes, in bunk-bed
he wouldn’t stay – before the barrack’s early morning run
coughing, smoking, first of many. Found it cleared a tired head.
This gentle Northern lad defied the constant warning signs,
hacking at him, packets daily, deaf to implication.
Not his place to question why, but wary of field-mines;
solace lay in early morning’s dawning peace, a mute elation
accompanied by nicotine and tar, inclined, supine.
Old and well-thumbed copy of The Prophet travelled with him;
confronted by mass-rape and genocide, sick civil war,
continents dark seas away, with NATO forces keeping.
The inhumanity he witnessed slunk into his core -
blackened lungs gave up to cancer; Prophet never left him.
All work on this spotlight is shared courtesy of Luke, who I would like to thank for spending some time with me and letting me share some of his literary words.
More poetry by Luke can be found here.