A Theory of Twentieth-Century Poetry
Edited & introduced by Gareth Farmer
Published by Shearsman UK, October 2015. Paperback, 223pp, 9 x 6ins £14.95
First published posthumously in 1978 by Manchester University Press, this volume turned sharply against critics of the previous generation, notably William Empson, and against emergent strains of historicism. The book is an exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) defence of “all the rhythmic, phonetic, verbal, and logical devices which make poetry different from prose.” According to the author, such devices are responsible for poetry’s most significant effect—not pleasure or ornament or some kind of special expressivity, but the production of “alternative imaginary orders.”
Veronica Forrest-Thomson – Collected Poems
Paperback, published by Shearman UK, 188pp, 9x6ins Download a PDF sampler from this book here.
This volume brings back into print the complete poems of Veronica Forrest-Thomson (1947–1975), whose work remains a touchstone for those interested in radical poetry in the 1970s. The book contains all of her published collections, plus poems that remained in manuscript, and contains work that has come to light since the publication of the Collected Poems and Translations (Allardyce, Barnett, 1990) as well as a number of corrections to the first edition.
Also see Jacket Magazine 20 for more on VFT and gossip
on the Cambridge Leisure Factory and the Aspidistra Cult,
not to mention Tom Clark: Letters home from Cambridge (1963–65) and Parataxis magazine (Cambridge, UK), Editors: Drew Milne & Simon Jarvis, and Five poets and an essay from Quid magazine, Cambridge, UK, Editor, Keston Sutherland; and Hugh Sykes Davies — ‘a lioness in the sidecar’ — and a breathless amount of other British Things!
Including a photo of the young William Empson, Salvador Dali in a diving helmet, and so on and so forth.
Puncher and Wattmann, Sydney, 2015
First Australian Edition ISBN: 9781922186560
Printed in Australia / All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews. Book design by John Tranter and David Musgrave. Cover art by Louise Hearman: Untitled 23723-1998-oil-on- masonite-69x91cm, by permission of Liz Laverty. Back cover photograph of the author in Sydney, 2009, by Anders Hallegren. Puncher & Wattmann ABN 94 002 569 507 / Net: http://www.puncherandwattmann.com Email: email@example.com Postal: P.O. Box 441, Glebe NSW 2037
BlazeVox Books, Buffalo, 2015
From the Afterword: This, my twenty-fourth book of poems, is made up of three parts: some poems related to The Best of the Best American Poetry 2013 (Series Editor, David Lehman, Guest Editor, Robert Pinsky), some poems related to The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of ‘Poetry’ Magazine (Don Share and Christian Wiman, Eds., 2012), and thirty or so poems, mainly rhymed sonnets, written by me in recent years. The poems in the first two parts appear in this book loosely in the order in which the ‘originals’ appear in those two collections of mainly North American verse, except where the usual order has been changed to allow for a poem running to more than one page to appear on facing pages. Ten of the sonnets in part three appeared in my chapbook Ten Sonnets, Vagabond, Sydney, 2013. For all the poems, their derivations and any significant notes are listed in the Notes to the Poems[ … ] In the case of the first two parts, I started with loose drafts which borrowed the end-words of each line of some poems in each of the two books concerned. I then changed the position of the line breaks in many of my new poems and in some cases changed the original line-end words, partly to be spared the annoyance of poets who might resent my using ‘their’ line-endings as my own, and partly because I felt that my using some of the words ending each line would lead to pointless contortions; words which ended some lines in some poems didn’t present much in the way of inspiration, and others were too strongly rhymed.
Dedication: For J.A.
‘…time for coffee and a Strega at Il Miglior Fabbro’
From a line in the book: Il Miglior Fabbro] Not in fact a New York café, bar or restaurant, though perhaps it should be. This phrase was T S Eliot’s dedication of ‘The Waste Land’ to Pound: ‘the better maker’ or ‘the finer craftsman’, which is what Dante calls Arnaut Danièl, an Occitan troubadour of the twelfth century and the inventor of the difficult sestina poem form, a favourite of [US poet John] Ashbery’s.
St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 2010. 214pp, paperback. ISBN-9780702238451
UQP’s Internet site
Awards: — the 2011 Queensland State Literary Award for poetry; — the 2011 Age Book of the Year award for poetry
‘Radical revisions, mistranslations and multilingual dealings: in «Starlight», John Tranter destroys and rebuilds work by poets including Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Ashbery and T.S. Eliot. The back story of modern poetry is vigorously interrogated, though the narratives are contemporary and the action takes place in the arena of the here and now. The atmosphere crackles with colloquial energy and the dialogue undercuts itself with a dry wit. Tranter’s restless craft is evident in the service of a complex and free-ranging style in this brilliantly playful collection.’
Well, that’s what the publisher says. The book was republished in the USA in 2015 by BlazeVox Books, Buffalo. Their web site: http://www.blazevox.org/ Here’s the cover design used by Blazevox Books, based on a painting by Australian artist Louise Hearman:
You can read ten poems from Starlight: 150 Poems on my Main Site here.
Urban Myths: 210 poems: New and Selected
St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 2006. 322pp, paperback. ISBN-9780702235573
UQP’s Internet site.
Publisher’s cover blurb: «Urban Myths: 210 Poems» brings the best work to date from a poet considered one of the most original of his generation in Australia, together with a generous selection of new work. Smart, wry and very stylish, John Tranter’s poems investigate the vagaries of perception and the ability of language to converge life, imagination and art so that we arrive, unexpectedly, at the deepest human mysteries.
«Urban Myths» has been awarded:
— The 2006 Victorian state award for poetry — The 2007 New South Wales state award for poetry — The 2008 South Australian state award for poetry, and — The 2008 South Australian Premier’s Prize for the best book overall (which includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and others for the years 2006 and 2007).
No other book of poetry has been so popular with the judges of so many different state awards. From the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry judges’ report (judges: The C J Dennis Prize for Poetry: Judith Rodriguez [Convenor], Emma Lew and Rodney Hall):
The new and uncollected poems in John Tranter’s «Urban Myths» make a significant addition to his oeuvre. Control and ease are evident in the writing, which displays personages, occasions and moods of the metropolitan modern world. Tranter’s latest poems refresh through the exercise of urbane skills: this is a poet suave and playful, but never aloof; linguistically various, assured in style, and never less than fully attentive.
From the New South Wales Kenneth Slessor Prize for poetry judges’ report (judges: Martin Harrison [chair], Kate Lilley, Kathleen Stewart):
This generous collection of 210 poems takes in the whole of John Tranter’s dazzling career including fifty new and uncollected poems as virtuosic as anything that precedes them. These final pages demonstrate the continuously innovative and international character of Tranter’s poetry, as well as its finely tuned responsiveness to the particularities of Australian idiom and experience. In Tranter’s hands, poetry, and language itself, is never straightforward but always a matter of delight and critical inquiry. Tranter’s devastating wit has evolved over time, but the daring and implicit humour of the enterprise has been constant. Combining tremendous technical fluency with a restless, experimental drive, Tranter delves into ‘popular mysteries’ and iconic characters, the irony of the everyday and ‘the vernacular of the shopping channel’. Tranter’s seemingly effortless command of the resources of form, speech, character and story, energizes his poetry and stimulates his readers, counterbalancing the melancholy of ‘grief, in small allotments’ with the ‘gift factory’ of poetic invention.’
The South Australian John Bray Poetry Award judges’ report (judges: Nicholas Jose [chair], Stephen Lawrence, Jan Owen):
Complex and sophisticated, this collection reflects the protean nature of mind, its amplitude and resilience. The poems are linguistically and intellectually sinuous and move with mercurial speed. Society is scrutinized, sardonically challenged and affirmed, and the self is part of the kaleidoscopic spill of surfaces and angles. Different voices and planes play together into the improvised melodies of jazz; characterisation, observation and memory produce haunting, dissonant chords. The poems are complex, tough and cheeky even as they are fluid and exalting. The mood can be edgy and dark, or lighter in tone, witty to downright funny, often with a cinematic or surreal video-clip quality. The later poems, particularly, use dislocation and randomness to create compelling otherworlds of words.
Other critical responses:
Tranter has produced a body of work remarkable for its intellectual vitality, formal versatility, and powers of renewal over a long and formidable career.
— Peter Pierce, «The Melbourne Age», July 15, 2006.
This new and selected poems reminds us, if we needed reminding, just how powerful John Tranter’s cumulated work is. There is a density, an intensity, and a many-sided explorativeness that probably cannot be matched in Australian poetry. Surprisingly, at 210 poems, it is a comparatively small book and has been pretty ruthlessly selected, but there is no doubting the size of its author’s achievement.
— Martin Duwell, «Australian Book Review» August 2006.
You can download a free, read-only PDF file of the first half of the book from my Main Site here: Urban Myths: 523 pages. The PDF file will silently download to the folder you have assigned in your computer’s preferences as the target for downloads. You can also read 100 pages of [»»] Notes to the book on my Main Site, accessible from the link just above, and you can order the printed and bound version of the book direct from the publisher, at this link.
The Floor of Heaven
Sydney: Jacket Press, 2007, in association with the University of Queensland Press. 132pp, paperback. ISBN 9780975698006
Dedication: To my son Leon
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here we will sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: so stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica: look, how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins…
– Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
‘A rattling good read’
— John Ashbery, launching the book in Melbourne, Australia
‘«The Floor of Heaven» is a tour de force, a devious and profoundly subversive conjuring trick by a poet writing at the peak of his powers… the book pulses with a curious resonance… reminded me irresistibly of the best moments in «Twin Peaks»… a strange lyricism.’
— Andrew Riemer, «Sydney Morning Herald»
‘…It is a sentimentality which has always lurked beneath the surface of Tranter’s work, a crudity of feeling that gives many of his early poems the glazed, dated air of 70s airport lounges.’
— Alison Croggon, ABC Radio National «Books and Writing», 8 November 1992.
You can read a free [»»] PDF file of the book «The Floor of Heaven», a collection of four loosely-linked narrative poems. This title was reprinted by the University of Queensland Press in June 2007. The PDF file is free to read in its entirety on this site, but it cannot be printed. Printed copies of this book can be purchased from the publisher, or from the University of Queensland Bookshop mail order department: phone (617+) 3346 9434.
Cambridge, UK: Salt Publishing, 2003. 162pp, paperback. ISBN 9781876857714
An omnibus collection of all the poems in three books published previously in Australia but long out of print:
«Red Movie» (1972)
«Crying in Early Infancy: 100 Sonnets» (1977)
«Dazed in the Ladies Lounge» (1979).
Though the book is now out of print, you may still visit the publisher’s website, and you can read extensive [»»] Notes to the poems in this book.
Cambridge UK: Salt Publishing, 2003. 114pp, paperback. ISBN 9781876857615 Studio Moon consists of sixteen poems from «At The Florida» unpublished outside Australia, eight poems from «Borrowed Voices», plus another twenty-eight uncollected poems.
‘…the new poems are exciting, and the result is a book that manages to be simultaneously powerful, entertaining and revealing. What «Studio Moon» gives us is a conspectus of one of Australia’s greatest poets in mid-career…’
(Martin Duwell, Australian Book Review)
‘… The sheer range of work in this volume makes it difficult to deal with in a short review; suffice it to say that this is the best collection by Tranter in some time and that you should own a copy.’ («Shearsman», UK)
Though the book is now out of print, you may still visit the publisher’s website. Cover Art: ‘The Hairdresser’, 1989, by Susie Marston. Collection John and Lyn Tranter.
Dedication: To P.P.
Beeston, Nottingham UK: Shoestring Press, 2002. 24pp, paperback. ISBN 1899549749. 19 Devonshire Avenue, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 1BS, UK. Phone/ Fax (44) 0115 9251 827. November 2002. Twenty-four pages. A dozen reinterpretations of poems by other (French, German, Chilean, Ancient Greek, Chinese, and English) poets.
From my Notes at the front of this book:
I wrote these poems while writer-in-residence as a guest of the University of Cambridge, the English Faculty, and Jesus College, Cambridge, England, between October 2001 and March 2002. I should like to express my thanks to the English Faculty, to the Judith E.Wilson Fund and to the Newton Trust.
I was offered an embarrassment of hospitality and kindness by so many people in Cambridge that I cannot list them all here, but I should like to thank the Master of Jesus College, Robert Mair; and the Fellows of the College; also Ian Donaldson, Chris and Jen Emery, Frank Kermode, John Kerrigan, John Kinsella, Rod Mengham, Drew Milne, Michael Minden, Kevin and Lesley Nolan, Jeremy Prynne, John Wilkinson and Maud Ellman, and all the poets, scholars and others who made my stay so enjoyable.
To John Lucas
The Nottingham poet and cornet player John Lucas had become a friend, and had published Borrowed Voices in 2002.
Cambridge UK: Salt Publishing, 2001. 103pp, paperback. ISBN 9781876857325. Contact Chris Emery, 3 Ratford’s Yard, Great Wilbraham, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB1 5JT, UK; Email: cemery (át) saltpublishing (dót) com. Though the book is now out of print, you may still visit the publisher’s website
«Heart Print» contains the poems in «Ultra», plus twenty-eight sonnets from «Crying in Early Infancy», all of the twenty-seven poems that make up «The Alphabet Murders» (somewhat revised) and a previously uncollected seven-page prose poem in the form of a hypermetrical sestina, ‘The Beach’.
‘Tranter may now be Australia’s most important poet… During the 1990s, Tranter emerged as an international figure, first by editing well-received anthologies, then with the Internet journal Jacket…
Of its four sections, the second and best, ‘The Alphabet Murders’, makes a great introduction to his work: its 27 segments (from ‘After’ and ‘Before’ to ‘Zero’ and ‘After’ again) use their meta-detective tales as excuses to talk about reading, writing, associative thought and literary history.
The untitled set of 28 sonnets and delightful prose poem that conclude the book present light-fingered commentary on subjects from ‘Starlight’ to absinthe and middle age: ‘I re-live youth asleep,’ one affecting line admits, ‘and leave it behind at dawn.’ Readers… will see why Tranter has mattered to Australians for so long.”…
— U.S. Publishers’ Weekly
Rose Bay, Sydney: Brandl and Schlesinger, 2001. 60pp, paperback. ISBN 9781876040291. Twenty-four 50-line poems plus a short introductory poem. The publisher’s website: http://www.brandl.com.au/
‘…The poems are masterful because they survive so much thin ice. They do not fall into cliché, sociology or archness. They are highly visual, cinematic poems that Tranter directs like Polanski. They can make us feel like we are in a film; then, just at the right time, we are back on the street, where the poet stands with his merciless phrasebook. Much of «Ultra» is a kind of Australian «Psycho» experience, where every irony cuts and tickles. Brilliant.’
You can visit the publisher’s website here: http://www.arcpublications.co.uk/
This is a British reprint of the earlier HarperCollins Australia volume published in 1992.
‘…The Floor of Heaven is a series of interconnected short stories told in a loose verse that is as much governed by natural speech rhythm as it is by conventional prosody. It is also a bit of a page-turner. Fired by coffee, drink and group therapy, the mainly female narrators spike their tales of bohemians, drop-outs, war veterans and men on the make with liberal quantities of covetousness, sex, drugs and violence. Amid the pulp fictions can be discerned what one character describes as “some pattern in things, a kind of balance”. [….] the writing basks in the cool glow of action painting and existentialism, Harley-Davidsons and Thunderbirds, pill-popping, jazz, cigarettes and alcoholism [….] Whether on a small or large canvas, John Tranter is above all a highly gifted writer of narrative verse, and The Floor of Heaven is his most considerable achievement to date. Yet narrative is by no means his only distinction. His poetry is various and variously rewarding, and nearly always manages to be both instantly engaging and to repay further attention. The publication of these two books means that most of Tranter’s best work is now available in Britain and confirms his status as one of Australia’s most important poets.’
— William Wootten, Times Literary Supplement, 2002
Cambridge UK: Barque Press, 2000. 24pp, ISBN 1903488001. Gonville and Caius College, Trinity Street, Cambridge England CB2 1TA, United Kingdom. Website: http://www.barquepress.com/ Also published by Vagabond Press, c/- English Department, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Published in 2000.
«Blackout» consists of Shakespeare’s «The Tempest», the article ‘Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream’ by Joan Didion, and a chapter from «The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test» by Tom Wolfe, with most of the words removed, and the remaining words and phrases interleaved, though in the same order as they appear in the original texts. No other words have been added.
‘Tranter uses his prefabricated materials and his abundant talents with great style and the result is a poem that reads and sounds like Tranter in a pleasurably uncanny way:
waitresses looking like milky cellophane,
their garments cooling in this sad nook, where once
midnight hid; all asleep; and the trumpets
always dropping off the note.
Is there more moody liberty?’
— Kate Lilley, «Sydney Morning Herald»
[poetry, experimental prose]
This books is respectfully dedicated to
Professor Hugh Kenner
* * *
Without his inspired investigations in the field of computer-assisted letter-group frequency analysis these texts could not have been written.
North Fremantle (Australia): Folio/ Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1998. 80pp, paperback. ISBN 1863682414. PO Box 158, North Fremantle WA 6159, Australia. A collection of seven short stories loosely based on drafts processed by the ‘Brekdown’ computer program.
See [»»] ‘Mr Rubenking’s Breakdown’ — an essay about computer-assisted writing on this site.
You can read two complete stories from «Different Hands» here too, and a collection of sample pages from «Different Hands»:
—In ‘Neuromancing Miss Stein’, the Modernist writer Gertrude Stein undergoes an outlandish cybernetic transformation.
—In ‘The Howling Twins’, the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg takes the Bobbsey twins on a drug-soaked trip across America.
—In ‘Magic Women’, Louisa Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ endure spiritual temptation and hallucinations under the tutelage of a disgruntled sorcerer in the Mexican desert.
—In other stories, Biggles clashes with Radclyffe Hall, notorious author of the sentimental lesbian novel ‘The Well of Loneliness’, and —E.M.Forster’s well-bred English characters plunge into Sydney’s flamboyant and cynical real estate market.
Late Night Radio
to Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Edinburgh UK: Polygon Press (University of Edinburgh Press), 1998. 92pp, ISBN 0748662383. Late Night Radio is made up of poems selected from Selected Poems (1982) and Under Berlin (1988), which were not available previously in the U.K.
‘…When non-Australians hear of John Tranter, it may be as an editor (of the Bloodaxe Book of Modern Australian Poetry or the online journal Jacket), or else as the head of a school, leading his urban, international, difficult postmodernists against Les Murray’s rural, local populists… Late Night Radio, however, his first British collection, reveals Tranter less as an avant-gardiste than as a startlingly accomplished pragmatist, a poet alert to what works: he uses the curvy, slippery language of his American models (John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara) to depict social and personal pathos and comedy, in recognizable poetic kinds…
Tranter’s best invention is a thorough irony that is not unkind to its subjects, a way to present contemporary people and their varied idiolects which at once cherishes, mocks and sees through them… Tranter gives us, instead, new, unpredictable ways to describe the world by turns energetic, exuberant, exasperated; hip, antipathetic, pathetic; attentive, fantastic, fed-up, ridiculous, serious; in his own words, “quizzical”, “grateful”, “daft, adolescent and deeply wise”…’
—Stephen Burt, Times Literary Supplement
‘…John Tranter’s amphetamine-fuelled, demented jeremiads… this work is… a form of pornography.’
— Caitriona O’Reilly, P.N.Review
Cambridge UK: Equipage, 1997. 40pp, paperback, ISBN 0900968258. Equipage, c/- Rod Mengham, Jesus College, Cambridge UK. Gasoline Kisses consists of 22 poems, selected from the thirty haibun from the last part of At The Florida (1993) with two additions and many small changes, saddle-stitched.
US critic Grahame Foust reviews Late Night Radio (1998):
‘Though there’s certainly nothing wrong with this book’s title (for of course it’s all there: the strange, the normal, love and hope and sex and dreams), this volume could have also been named for its last poem, ‘The Popular Mysteries.’ For these mysteries, these things we all know we don’t really know, are the subject of John Tranter’s Late Night Radio, a poetic cross between ‘Dream Weaver,’ a sugary-sweet late night pop classic, and John Berryman’s bitter Dream Songs, which, as their author stated, were meant to ‘terrify and comfort’ (which is to say calm, crack, and contradict).’
At The Florida
This book is dedicated to the memory of my mother
Anne Katherine Tranter née Brown
St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1993. 100pp, paperback. ISBN 0703335533. UQP’s Internet site. Awarded the Age Book of the Year poetry prize in 1993.
From Martin Duwell’s review of the book:
It is only in the past few years that John Tranter seems to have achieved anything like the public profile that the quality of his poetry demands. It may say something about the politics of reputation in Australia, it may say something about our fear of the new — for Tranter’s corpus of work marks him out as simultaneously father and exemplar of contemporary poetry in this country — but one’s late 40s is a long time to wait. At The Florida is an important, challenging book, but despite those daunting adjectives, it is also a deeply pleasurable book, complex and densely rich. It also comes trailing those dangerous round figures that invite readers to take stock — it is Tranter’s 10th book of poems, published in his 50th year. From whatever perspective it is viewed, At The Florida, is a marvellous achievement, even if it runs the risk of tempting reviewers into saying more about the career behind it than the book itself.
The Floor of Heaven
To my son Leon
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here we will sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: so stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica: look, how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins…
– Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Pymble: HarperCollins/Angus and Robertson, 1992.
138pp, paperback.ISBN 030717699X (reprinted 1996)
Reprinted in 2007; [»»] see above.
For my daughter Kirsten
St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1988.
120pp, paperback. ISBN 070331376. With author’s notes.
Three printings by 1993 with different back jacket and half-title-page information.
UQP’s Internet site: http://www.uqp.uq.edu.au/ Awarded the NSW State Literary Award for poetry in 1989
From Christopher Pollnitz’s review of the book:
My suggestion is that Rimbaud continues to haunt and foster Tranter’s recent poems, not because he is, as Tranter has described him, the ‘prototype’ of all the modernisms (Duwell, p. 21), but because of the close emotional fit that has grown up between Rimbaud’s work and his own.
Regret for innocence is also nostalgia for a simpler subject and poetic voice, such as speaks of familiar backgrounds and congregations in the opening poems of Under Berlin. In ‘Backyard’ there is one unfamiliar presence at the barbecue, ‘the God of Smoke’ for whom the burnt offerings of the ritual are prepared, but his existence, like the gods of the Stoics, only matters if it is allowed to become more than hypothetical. Matthew Arnold can take a rest this round. The kind of poem against which ‘Backyard’ takes up its adversarious stance is Les Murray’s ‘The Mitchells’, a poetry which insists there are deeper, buried significances in social rituals. For Tranter the effort to implant further significance in the ‘tattered arena’ of human custom, or to uncover it from that arena, contaminates the limited significance it already has:
And the brown dog worries the khaki grass
to stop it from growing
in the place of his worship, the burying bone.
The bone that stinks.
The poem concludes that it is wise not to ask of this or of other rites more than they obviously offer – ‘some cold beer, a few old friends in the afternoon, / a Southerly Buster at dusk’. In Australia the principal medium for transmitting this note of Horatian stoicism, this Larkinesque refusal to pick up bad habits of expectation, has been Peter Porter; Porter too is the presiding presence over the dying fall, ‘at dusk’; so that, not for the first time, Tranter, writing poems with other poets in mind, seems to be saying No to Murray but No with Porter, a Porter naturalized to the rhythms and imagery of suburban Sydney. For all the literary sophistication that underpins its limpid surface, there seems no avoidance of an authorizing subject in ‘Backyard’. How to write and read poetry may still be a theme, but in the new quiet voice of these poems the falsifying of signification is addressed as theme rather than embedded and enacted in the difficulties of the signifying medium[…]
King’s Cross, Sydney: Nicholas Pounder, 1986. 11pp, paperback. ISBN 1862527571 [signed limited edition pamphlet of 376 copies] [though the colphon says 250 copies] (an early version of the first poem in The Floor of Heaven), privately published by Nicholas Pounder, bookseller, King’s Cross, December 1986, A4 sheets wire stapled near the spine, wrapper hand-coloured by the author and his daughter Kirsten.
The colophon, below, appears centred on the final page, page 12.
[signed ‘John Tranter’]
by the xerographic process
for Nicholas Pounder/ Bookseller
298 Victoria Street, Kings Cross 2011
in a limited signed edition
of 250 copies numbered in sequence
and twenty-six author’s copies numbered A to Z
all in hand-coloured wrappers
of which this is number
[this copy hand numbered ‘240’]
This poem also appeared
in a slightly different form in
The Age Monthly Review, December 1986
Printed in November 1986 at Pavilion Press Set
2 Buckland Street, Broadway 2007, Australia
Copyright (c) John Tranter 1986
ISBN: 1 86252 757 1
To my mother
Sydney:Hale and Iremonger, 1982. 176pp, section sewn.ISBN 0868066391 (paper) ISBN 0868060383 (casebound). Includes 10 previously uncollected poems.
From David Carter’s review of this book in Scripsi magazine, 1984::
Publishing a Selected Poems might be a bit like turning forty. Suddenly, it seems, there’s a past which is yours and yet no longer yours, which is public and yet as intimate and strange as memory or dream. Like these other texts, perhaps, the poems are to be reclaimed, are acknowledged, edited, re-ordered, and then
Although art is, in the end, anonymous,
turning into history once it’s left the body,
surely some gadget in the poet’s head
forces us to suffer
as we stumble through the psychology of it.
Indeed to ‘stumble’ through Tranter’s Selected Poems, following their music and their talk, is to stumble upon a disembodied art, and also upon a possible ‘psychology’, like ‘some gadget’ in the head, hidden in style yet nothing but style. To indicate this disembodiment and stylishness is to intimate the poetry’s ‘auto-mobility’ (stealing one of Tranter’s own favoured images, with its associations of speed and extravagant form).
Dazed in the Ladies Lounge
This book is dedicated
with respect and affection
to the memory of
Neil, who grew up in Bateman’s Bay, had been a schoolmate (both at Moruya and at Hurlstone Agricultural High) and friend of the author for many years. He died accidentally not long before this book was published. J.T.
Sydney: Island Press, 1979. 64pp, paperback. ISBN 0909771305. ISBN 0909771331 (hardbound, out of print)
From David Brooks’ review of this book for the Canberra Times in 1981:
Much of Dazed in the Ladies Lounge is intellectual autobiography recording, with a candour, self-awareness and complex lyricism that must now involve many who have hitherto had little time for this man’s work, one man’s passage past some of the most alluring philosophic and poetic Sirens of his time.
The book is an extended elegy, and in such poems as ‘Rimbaud and the Modernist Heresy’, ‘Leavis at the London’, ‘Roland Barthes at the Poets’ Ball’ and ‘Enzensberger at “Exiles”’ contains some of the best work published in Australia in the last half-decade.
At a time when the loose, surrealistic associations of his previous poetry, its exploitation of numerous verbal and syntactic ambiguities as devices by means of which it might become self-generative, and its concomitant denials of discourse to its readers, could be accused of having erected an almost-impermeable barrier between this poet and his world, Tranter has shown himself to be several steps ahead of his severest critics, and as of a class apart.
Crying in Early Infancy: 100 Sonnets
To Ron and Rivka Witenberg
Old friends: we went to their wedding,
they went to ours, in 1968
St Lucia, Queensland: Makar Press, 1977. 64pp, section sewn, ISBN 0909353197 (paper); ISBN 0909353319 (casebound)
From Gary Catalano’s review of this book in Contempa magazine Series 2, number 6:
…the diction is often tired and forced, the sonnet form is used in a monotonous and inflexible way, the tone is consistently one of lurid overstatement, and there is a complete absence of any genuine drama.
The Alphabet Murders (notes from a work in progress)
Cremorne, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1976. 24pp, paperback. ISBN 0307133983. Part of the series ‘Poets of the Month’, with other booklets by James McAuley, Geoffrey Lehmann, John Forbes, Thomas Shapcott and Simon Bronsky, and later collected in a compendium hardback volume.
From Jennifer Maiden’s review of this book in New Poetry magazine, volume 24 number 2 1976, pp. 91–93.
Tranter, of course, is the world’s best ‘anal’ poet, not only in semantic terms but in simple Freudian creative / retentive ones, and he uses it marvellously. The Poem as presented here is a difficult achievement, a futile wastage and a social peril, since both its appearance and its destruction crave and simultaneously reject reward.
The Blast Area
This book is dedicated with respect and affection to the
memory of John Darcy.
Sovereign Lords of Death, I’ve neither cursed nor praised you.
Pity me, a traveller who’s made so many of these journeys
without luggage, with no master, no money, with fame gone elsewhere;
surely you’re mighty, surely you can take a joke,
pity this madman who, even before he passes the barrier,
even now is shouting his name to you; catch him
in mid-air, let him fit if he can to your customs and to your attitudes,
and if it pleases you to help him, then I pray, help him.
– Henri Michaux
John Darcy taught history at Hurlstone Agricultural High School when John Tranter attended the school 1957-1960. He was killed in a motor accident in 1961.
St Lucia Queensland: Makar Press, 1974. As Gargoyle Poets 12. 36pp, paperback. ISBN 0909353006. Gargoyle Poets was a series of pamphlets published by Martin Duwell, editor of Makar Magazine, at the English Department, The University of Queensland, St Lucia Queensland 3067. The typeface chosen for the words ‘BLAST AREA’ is named ‘Baby Teeth’.
Red Movie and other poems
whose encouragement, support and criticism
helped to bring these poems into being
Cremorne, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1972. Casebound, wrapper, 48pp. ISBN 0307135033.
From Kate Lilley’s review of several books in Australian Literary Studies, volume 14 number 1, May 1989:
Every reader’s field of reference is subtly different, but unless one is happy to wander blind and dazed, or to skim for the jokes, Tranter’s poetry makes homework mandatory, and rewardingly so. Most strikingly, it turns towards science in a way that opens up relations amongst technologies — amongst crafts. Reserving poetry’s pole position amongst the hermetic arts, Tranter modernises the ancient links between chemical compounds and mind-bending poetry. Cocaine, ephedrine, halothane, pethidine, librium, nerve gas, mandrax, serepax, tetrahydrocannabinol, methaqualone hydrochloride, hydrocyanic acid… a complete list would run to many pages. Tranter’s poems are a veritable chemist shop, staked with uppers and downers, anaesthetics, poisons, hallucinogens, aphrodisiacs, luxury items and ‘cheapskate pharmaceutical[s]’, (‘Shadow Detail’, UB, p. 47): a literal pharmacopoeia which figures poetry as a trip, a cocktail, a ride, a hit, a way of moving:
listen to me: you’re enjoying nothing
seen from this crisp angle
listen to me: I have been travelling for some time
aware of the necessity for choice: move!
if you wish to unravel the sources of your own sorrow
if you wish to divert the river of absolution
if you are desperate for a chance
to break up.
Pilots, ship’s captains, racing-car drivers, truckers, bikies, commercial travellers, hitchers and comic-book superheroes: this is the cast which circulates through Tranter’s poems as the dramatic instantiation of the masculine subject-in-process and the poem as plot.
Parallax and other poems
Dedicated to the memory of my father
who had died in 1962, when I was nineteen.
Five Dock, Sydney: South Head Press, 1970. 64pp, ISBN 0901760056. Published as «Poetry Australia» magazine, number 33, June 1970 (incorrectly shown on the half-title page as the June 1968 number), paperback, section-sewn. From Virginia Osborne: The Poetry Explosion: Virginia Osborne introduces six talented young Sydney poets, Vogue Australia, April 1971, around the time this book was published:
John E.Tranter, a poet with a luxuriant, slightly drooping moustache, is convinced of their importance [song-writers like Dylan and Leonard Cohen] but prefers to go to their sources rather than their songs for his own inspiration. Aged twenty-seven, married for three years and studying English at Sydney University, he is probably the most published and technically certain of the five poets I talked to.
Anthologies, Collections and Magazines edited by John Tranter
[poetry magazine, internet-only]
ISSN 1440–4737, Balmain, Sydney: John Tranter, 1997—[…] Internet-only: Poetry, interviews, reviews, articles on type and photography, a free Internet review of poetry and new writing published three [or sometimes four] times a year. Forty issues by 2010 (some eight thousand printed pages). In 2010-2011 Jacket will move to the University of Pennsylvania. [And it did. J.T., 2015]
“Almost everyone I contacted pointed me to Jacket, an Australian site that’s perhaps as close to a traditional print poetry journal as can be created online.”
— Glen Helfand, Special to «San Francisco Gate» magazine.
“In the welter of literary e-zines, Jacket stands out for its stylishness…”
— «Time» magazine
“The prince of online poetry magazines is Jacket, run from Australia by the poet John Tranter. It has never been a print journal. The design is beautiful, the contents awesomely voluminous, the slant international modernist and experimental.”
— Peter Forbes, U.K. Guardian.
Edited by John Tranter; Pub date: November 2012, RRP: $24.99, ISBN: 9781863955812, Imprint: Black Inc., Format: PB, Size: 210 x 135mm, Extent: 240pp.
“I was struck… by just how many poems depended on the ancient devices of the storyteller… Many have a lyrical or meditative feel, but most have a story to tell, captured in a brief glimpse of the meaning of life, or a dramatic climax.” — John Tranter
In this impressive anthology John Tranter weaves many threads into a portrait of Australian poetry in 2012. Emerging poets sit alongside the celebrated, travelling from Lake Havasu City to Graz, and nursing homes to fairgrounds, with characters as diverse as David Bowie, Emily Dickinson and Rumpelstiltskin.
The Best Australian Poems 2012 will satisfy a hunger for storytelling and a yearning for beauty. Read this interview with John Tranter about how he compiled this book.
Here’s an excerpt:
Black Inc.: What are your top five tips for aspiring poets? Tranter: Read voraciously as widely as you can; write and rewrite a lot; don’t take any notice of fads or fashions or what other people say and just write out what interests you personally; take careful notice of fads and fashions and what other people say and write in as many different forms and tones of voice as you can imagine; and publish, publish, publish.
The Best Australian Poems 2011
Edited by John Tranter; Black Inc. Pub date: November 2011, RRP: $24.95, ISBN: 9781863955492, Imprint: Black Inc., Format: PB, Size: 210 x 135mm, Extent: 240pp.
“What a rich, strange and diverse lot these poems turned out to be… I suspect that these baroque and potent imaginings can only have come into existence as fragments of dreams or nightmares.” — John Tranter
In The Best Australian Poems 2011, celebrated poet John Tranter selects the most vigorous, varied and interesting poems of the last year. This sparkling collection shines a light on the phantasmagorical nature of poetry, evoking images, transformations and events that range from the playful to the melancholy by way of exuberance and satire. Featuring award-winning poems alongside brand-new works, as well as a mix of emerging and renowned poets, this is a volume of surreal beauty and emotional resonance.
Poets include: Robert Adamson, Ali Alizadeh, Jude Aquilina, Ken Bolton, Pam Brown, joanne burns, Sarah Day, Bruce Dawe, Kate Fagan, Michael Farrell, Angela Gardner, Geoff Goodfellow, Lisa Gorton, Jennifer Harrison, Sarah Holland-Batt, Jill Jones, Cate Kennedy, Andy Kissane, Mike Ladd, Kate Lilley, Jennifer Maiden, David McCooey, Les Murray, Ouyang Yu, Felicity Plunkett, Peter Rose, Gig Ryan, Jaya Savige, Thomas Shapcott, Craig Sherborne, Pete Spence, Peter Steele, Maria Takolander, Andrew Taylor, Tim Thorne, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Alan Wearne and many more…
Co-edited with Philip Mead. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Australia, Ringwood, 1993. 474pp,paperback. ISBN 0130586390. Second printing December 1995 also published as the «Bloodaxe Book of Modern Australian Poetry» in the UK and the USA, ISBN 1852243155)
Martin Johnston: Selected Poems and Prose
[poetry, translated poetry, folk song, reviews, essays, interviews]
Martin Johnston intended to dedicate his next book of poetry to his stepdaughter Vivienne and her husband Christopher. With that wish in mind, this book is for Vivienne Bonney and Christopher Latham.
St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1993. 290 + xxvi pp., 30 photographs, paperback.
From my Introduction to this book:
Martin Johnston (1947–1990) was one of a generation of poets who invigorated Australian poetry in the late 1960s and 1970s. His contribution was unusual: he had a European upbringing, having spent fourteen years of his childhood abroad, in England and Greece. His connections with Island Press and the University of Queensland Press, with the poetry readings at Sydney University, with the group of young writers including Laurie Duggan, Carl Harrison-Ford and Robert Adamson who were busy overhauling New Poetry magazine, are very much a part of the ferment of that period.
Martin’s angle on things was very much his own, though. He might have loved John Berryman’s work and learned much from contemporary American poetry, but he had also read Cavafy and Seferis in their native Greek years before, and had immersed himself in Homer as a child.
The Tin Wash Dish: Poems from Today’s Australians
Crow’s Nest, Sydney: ABC Enterprises, 1989. 136pp, paperback. ISBN 0633130000
Selected by John Tranter from some six thousand entries in the poetry section of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian Bicentennial Authority Literary Awards competition held in 1988.
The New Australian Poetry
Makar Press, St Lucia, 1979, reprinted with corrections 1980, section sewn, casebound and paperback, 330pp. ISBN 0909353333
Poetry Australia 32: Preface to the Seventies
See this article and others like it in the Journal of Poetics Research: Preface to the Seventies
Five Dock Sydney: South Head Press, 1970. 80pp, paperback. SBN 901760021. «Poetry Australia» magazine number 32, February 1970. Guest editor: John E. Tranter, 39 poets, five essays.
See contents list below.
Contents: Poems by
J. S. Harry
R. J. Deeble
John E. Tranter
P. A. Pilgrim
Frederick C. Parmee
Rodney Hall: «Attitudes to Tradition in Contemporary Australian Poetry»
Thomas Shapcott: «Hold Onto Your Crystal Balls»
James Tulip: «The Australian-American Connection»
Ronald Dunlop: «Recent Australian Poetry»
Donald Gallup: «T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound: Collaborators in Letters»
Transit New Poetry
Camperdown New South Wales: John Tranter, 1969. 34pp, paperback. [no ISBN] Number 2, January 1969.
Transit New Poetry
Paddington New South Wales: John Tranter, 1968. 36pp, paperback. [no ISBN] Number 1, September 1968.
[hoax poetry magazine]
Paddington New South Wales: John Tranter, 1968 (?). 5pp, foolscap size (foolscap is a size of paper, traditionally 13.5 inches or 34.3 cm, by 17 inches or 43.2 cm, although it might be a bit smaller), Gestetner rotary silkscreen. [no ISBN] One number only, undated. Composed and typed onto stencils one morning in 1968 by John Tranter.
The masthead is Letraset rub-on transfer type, printed photo-litho. You might like to notice how the magazine publication technology changes from:
«Free Grass» (Gestetner, 1968, free, less than a hundred readers)
«Jacket» (Internet and digital CD, 2007, free, thousands of readers).
I’ve been writing and publishing poetry for half a century. Now and then I receive enquiries from people starting out to be a writer, asking me to read their manuscripts (for nothing) and tell them what they should do to become a famous published poet, or at least a published poet. I don’t have the time or the inclination to read poetry manuscripts or to write lots of personal letters, and since what I say is always the same, here it is.
MJ: “…I remember a poetry reading years ago which William Empson gave at a pub in London. And he read a series of very, very opaque poems, and made two comments on them. One of them was “By God I was good, when I wrote that!”. The other was “I can’t really see what the difficulty is.” And his audience evidently could.” Australian poet Martin Johnston, being interviewed by John Tranter, Radio Helicon, ABC Radio National, 1987.
Photo: Martin Johnston, Oxford Street, Taylor Square, Sydney, 1980, outside Exiles bookshop. The poster in the background is a silkscreen poster by John Tranter: “We’re With you, Ray! (Ray Denning, fugitive from Justice, later killed). It’s better to be up and doing than down and being done.” Photo by John Tranter.
Is this a silly fantasy, or is it deeply valuable? William Morris: The Odes of Horace, written and decorated by hand.
‘We seem to have been granted access to a treasure: vulnerable, threatened by the very transience that Horace’s odes resist and lament, and therefore all the more highly to be prized’ Clive Wilmer
The genius of William Morris found expression in many different media. Here, for the first time, we have reproduced one of his gems of manuscript illumination: The Odes of Horace, a treasure of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Produced by the Folio Society.
Production Details: • Limited to 980 copies • Facsimile volume • Printed on Tatami paper in coloured inks with gold and silver foil • Bound in Indian smooth-grain goatskin with 5 raised bands on the spine • Gold blocked on spine, edges and doublures • Shuffled pages • 192 pages • 6¾” x 5″ (I’m not sure what “shuffled pages” means. Cards, yes. JT)
“…these efforts are an integral part of what appears to be a larger and longer-term trend in American verse: the emergence of a generation of women poets whose visibility, authority, and regard within the national poetry community, judging from the available hard data, notably outstrips that of their male counterparts. Indeed, after many decades of patriarchal hegemony, the new gender gap in American poetry is both significant and widening.” More at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/the-widening-gender-gap-i_b_4213440.html
Over thirty years ago: seems like yesterday: At the 1981 launch of Surfers Paradise magazine at the Courthouse Hotel, Newtown: photo of (L to R) Nigel Roberts, (unknown), Richard Stern (late of a Bookshop in Macleay Street, Potts Point), Eve Jennings, Mark O’Connor (sporting a Van Dyke beard), Kathy Davidson (with Richard Stern). Photo by John Tranter, Olympus XA, Technical Pan film, split-toned in Adobe Lightroom in 2014.
Welcome to one of the world’s most beautiful Ramayana manuscripts. The original was prepared for Maharana Jagat Singh, the ruler of the Rajput kingdom of Mewar in Rajasthan, in the middle of the seventeenth century.
Most volumes of the manuscript are now in the British Library. They were presented by Maharana Bhim Singh of Mewar to Colonel James Tod who brought them back to Britain in 1823. Other parts have remained in India, held today in three separate institutions and one private collection.
Digitisation has made it possible for this long-divided manuscript to be brought together again for the first time in almost 200 years. The majority of text pages in the manuscript have been digitised as well as the paintings so that Valmiki’s work can be read in the original Sanskrit.
From my FaceBook page: Photo, above: Ashbery and Auden at the Poetry International Festival in London in 1972: Auden’s friend the Nobel-greedy Joseph Brodsky is sucking up to them both but his image has been trimmed from the RHS of the photo. Auden cheerfully knocked back the Nobel Prize in 1964… did you know that? I didn’t. You must read this recent piece from the NYTBR by Edward Mendelson on Auden: “W.H. Auden had a secret life that his closest friends knew little or nothing about. Everything about it was generous and honorable. He kept it secret because he would have been ashamed to have been praised for it… Auden… seems to have mentioned the incident only once, when he went to dinner with his friend Lincoln Kirstein the same evening and said, “There goes the Nobel Prize.” The prize went to Jean-Paul Sartre, who refused it.” More At http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/mar/20/secret-auden/
The painting John Ashbery was referring to in his 1975 poem “Sef-portrait in a Convex Mirror”…
Of the origin of Francesco Parmigianino’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” 16th century painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari wrote: “He began to draw himself as he appeared in a barber’s convex glass. He had a ball of wood made at a turner’s and divided in half, and on this he set himself to paint all that he saw in the glass. Because the mirror enlarged everything that was near and diminished what was distant, he painted the hand a little large.”
Four centuries later, poet John Ashbery took up the painting in the title poem of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror:
As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
And swerving easily away, as though to protect
What it advertises.
Ashbery’s ecphrastic poetry is unique because, as poet David Lehman has remarked, Ashbery uses specific paintings “as points of departure that discover themselves by meditating on objets d’art, and thus displacing them. . . . Gazing at the painting, the poet comes virtually to inhabit its room, to make its quarters his own.”
The Coen Brothers’ movie “Inside Llewyn Davis” (late 2013) takes place mainly in the folk singing venue the Gaslight Poetry Café, Greenwich Village, New York, in 1961. In the movie, the last folkie seen to take the stage bears a suspicious resemblance to the young Bob Dylan, not long after he left his rightful name (Robert Zimmerman of Hibbing Minnesota) behind for good. Yes, Bob played the Gaslight, in 1961. Here’s the album to prove it.
Is an “Olsonite” a committed follower of the poetry of the great US poet Charles Olson, 1910 to 1970, poet and literary theorist, widely credited with first using the term “postmodern” in discussing American poetry and known for his association with the Black Mountain poets and for his influence on the generation of American poets who emerged after World War II?
Or just the material used to manufacture a toilet lid in the Durant Hotel in Berkeley, California?
No offence meant to the career, work or reputation of a great American poet. He can’t help being accidentally related to the American plastics industry.
No, not a memorial to US poet Frank O’Hara, as poetry lovers might imagine, or John O’Hara, for those who prefer prose. Two of three such devices, much-trodden-on, let into the sidewalk of Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, California, long ago and discovered in December 2013 and photographed by John Tranter. Once upon a time the O’Hara Company made these little brass lids for under-sidewalk pipes — for fuel oil, perhaps — some ten centimeters square, about the size of a CD cover. The address of the firm in Los Angeles, some three hundred and fifty miles away, is now (in 2013) a near-derelict building not far from the Los Angeles Galvanizing Company.