Drawing from her new biography, Trauma, Primitivism, and the First World War: The Making of Frank ‘Toronto’ Prewett, Joy Porter explores the extraordinary life of this Canadian veteran, poet and exceptional man of letters, and the history of trauma, literary expression and the power of self-representation after World War I.
While serving with the British forces on the Western front during World War I, Prewett was thrown from his horse and suffered severe back injuries in one battle and clawed his way out of the earth after being buried alive in another. Recovering at the same psychiatric hospital as Siegfried Sassoon, Prewett was encouraged to ‘dress up’. Yet in so doing, he took on an entirely fictitious identity as an indigenous Canadian named Toronto.
With his exceptional good looks, Prewett soon became the love interest not only of Sassoon himself, but also of Lady Ottoline Morrell, the transgressive British Bloomsbury society hostess. Through them, he connected with all of the major writers of the early 20th century and his work, and ‘primitive’ genius, was lauded by all. Eventually, Prewett ‘cracked’ and the group cast him out, yet he himself never let go of this alter-ego.
The event is chaired by author and editor Erica Wagner. Actor Alex McMorran will read examples of Prewett’s poems during the event.
Porter, J. (2021). The Making of Frank 'Toronto' Prewett: Poetry, Trauma and Identity. [British Library Player Archive]. Performed at London. 15 June 2021. (Unpublished)