John Tranter, New York City, 2008. Photo by Charles Bernstein.
An instalment the “Close Listening” series — a collaboration between PennSound and ArtRadio WPS1.org — is available at UPenn’s site: a two-part reading and conversation with Australian poet and critic John Tranter.
The reading segment features poems from Tranter’s 2006 collection «Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected», beginning with a number of pieces which engage with, often via the process of (mis)translation, the works of other poets, such as “After Hölderlin;” “Festival,” a deliberate mistranslation of Max Jacob’s poem of the same name; and a transliterated version of Arthur Rimbaud’s “Brussels.” From there, the session continues with a selection of recent poems, including, “Snap,” “Five Modern Myths,” “Black Leather” and “Radium,” which addresses James Schuyler’s tribute to his departed friend, Frank O’Hara, “Buried at Springs.”
Host Charles Bernstein begins his interview by asking Tranter about the context for his poetry: whether it’s global, or more local, and this leads to a discussion of the tensions between Australian nationalism and an international focus in Tranter’s own work, as well as the tremendous literary and cultural potential of the internet — as best embodied by Tranter’s journal, «Jacket» — which elides and erases the differences imposed by national boundaries. Tranter then discusses his earliest influences (Chinese poetry, D.H. Lawrence, Gerard Manley Hopkins) and how they shaped his poetic development, as well as the tremendous import the work of Rimbaud, Ashbery, Schuyler and O’Hara, alongside more proximal inspirations, such as the great Australian hoax-poet, Ern Malley (whose collected works Tranter published in «Jacket» #17). “You can’t really put Wordsworth in Australia — the environment’s all wrong,” he observes, underscoring the overwhelming, yet foreign dominion of English verse during his formative years, compelling him to break with traditions and invent new forms.
You can hear both installments — and more audio material — by visiting PennSound’s John Tranter author page.