I have read and reviewed the poetry collections of Frank Prem and I was honoured to be asked to review his latest release, a profoundly moving photographic and poetic tribute to the Australian soldiers who fought so bravely in World War One.
My own grandfather served in the army for three years and was in the reserves when war broke out. He was called up in 1914 serving in the Royal Engineers. He was killed on November 2nd 1918, after being wounded three times.
Sheep On The Somme: A World War I Picture and Poetry Book – in hardback and paperback this is a memorial to those who endured the horrors of the Battle of the Somme.
About the Collection.
In this Picture Poetry collection, journey with the AIF, the ANZACS and the German and French armies at war on the Western Front during the Great War of 1914 – 1918.
Have your photo taken in a studio in Cairo, and your heart broken on a small street in Ballarat.
The bombs are falling in an endless fusillade of artillery fire from both sides of the conflict, turning the Somme into a clagging stew of slurried mud and maddened men.
Frank Prem has taken images of men at war and created verse stories to accompany them and to tell you that this war is hell.
Welcome. Welcome to the Somme.
Here is Frank Prem talking about the book and one of the images that brought home the reality of life on the front line, not just the men but the animals.
My review for Sheep On The Somme – Behind the Images July 10th 2021
Those of us who are in our 60s and 70s are likely to have had grandparents who were affected one way or another by the First World War, on all sides of the conflict. Most we may never have met and we can only rely on second hand accounts of their lives.
This makes Frank Prem’s selected images, and his poetry, even more profound and compelling, as they give a voice to the silent men in the trenches and on the battlefield, the living and the dead. The civilians whose homes, places of worship and villages were pounded to rubble, and the animals, horses and mules who stood in tethered lines far from peaceful grassy meadows. And to the families who waited at home desperate for news and grateful for every short note on a postcard passed by the censors. To the non-combatants, medics who risked their lives to retrieve the wounded, the doctors, nurses and those who attempted to feed and provide water for man and beast.
This is not a celebration of war, it is tribute to the strength of the human spirit and a pictorial reminder of the devastation of conflict on human beings, the land, wildlife and the future of millions. Perhaps if this collection had been published and distributed after World War I… there might not have been a second conflict twenty years later.
There are certain images that will remain with me. A solitary cross amidst the bomb craters and mud, men in the trenches crowded in a bunker drinking tea and playing cards, the blitzed remains of a village, and the endless march of refugees with scant belongings and little hope, trying to escape the bombardment and savagery.
So why would I recommend a book that highlights the darkness of one of the most tragic events in recent history? Although this collection features Australian forces, they are representative of all the other nationalities who participated in the conflict on both sides. It is our history, and for millions around the world, somewhere in a grave in one of the many cemeteries across Europe, a long lost relative may be buried.
And as always, Frank Prem’s poetry is superb, breathing life, emotion and touches of humour into this collection of unforgettable images from the past. A book that should be on library bookshelves and in our homes and shared with the next generation.
Also by Frank Prem
About Frank Prem
Frank Prem has been a storytelling poet since his teenage years. He has been a psychiatric nurse through all of his professional career, which now exceeds forty years.
He has been published in magazines, online zines and anthologies in Australia, and in a number of other countries, and has both performed and recorded his work as spoken word.
He lives with his wife in the beautiful township of Beechworth in North East Victoria, Australia.
I hope that you will head to buy this incredible piece of imagery and poetry. Thanks Sally.