Category Archives: Writers and Writing

Articles about writers, poets, poems and books, including criticism and review pieces.

The Gaslight Poetry Café, 1961

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.


Artist Roland Wakelin, 1887-1971


From the painting’s label at the Auckland Art Gallery:

Roland Wakelin (1887-1971), New Zealand, Wellington Rooftops c1925

Oil on Board, Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki
purchased with assistance from the friends of the Auckland Art Gallery, 1978

After arriving in Sydney [Australia] in 1912, Roland Wakelin developed theories about the experimental use of colour. He called these paintings ‘synchromies’. Created in Wellington during a brief trip home, this work’s broad colours mix angles and curves, reflecting what the artist had learned fromPost-Impressionism.

‘All will agree that a work of art should possess balance in its design, should be a cosmos, the total of whose parts make a unity. Everyone knows that 5 + 2 + 3 equals 10. To the colorist Yellow + Blue + Violet in the right proportions similarly constitute a unity.’ Roland Wakelin.

Roland Wakelin, together with his friend Lloyd Rees, taught John Tranter drawing, composition and art at the University of Sydney Architecture Faculty in 1961.

Pens and Handwriting

The geniuses at the Apple Corporation have stopped writing beautifully with fountain pens, and have gone back to what they did at school: writing like awkward children with ball-point pens. Check the image, which shows the icons for the old Apple Word-processor called “Pages” on the left (Pages 4.3, part of Apple’s iWork ’09), and to its right, the icon for the new Pages 5.0 (part of the new iWork ’13). What does this mean? Dumbing-down, that’s what. “If you attended public school in the U.S.A. after about 1970, it’s likely that you learned to write using a ballpoint pen. You might be interested in the results of a study that the National Education Association, the largest U.S. teachers’ union, conducted. The study found that ballpoint pens are a significant cause of poor handwriting. Yes, you read that right. Ballpoints make you write poorly.”

Welcome, Brave New World.


The City that Never Sleeps…

“The City that Never Sleeps … except at night.” The Sun-Herald is the Sunday version of the beleaguered Sydney Morning Herald, the paper that sacks trained staff and replaces them with cheaper workers. Hence, on the travel pages, this generic Getty Images shot of New York City, and the caption… ah, the caption! Please read the caption. Now read it again. What period of the day is “dawn to dusk”? That’s right: daylight. Thank you. Good night.


The Curse of English

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

Nations encouraging the introduction of English can expect that, over time, their citizens will become more individualistic, more materialistic and less compassionate. They are also likely to want to watch more television, eat more junk food, become fatter, marry less and divorce more often. Their children will become less disciplined, more likely to need drugs to calm them down, and to binge on alcohol when they reach their teens.

In London notices on lamp-posts proclaim £500 fines for urinating in public; yet vomiting in public goes unpunished. Perhaps binge-drinking and its technicolour consequences are viewed as an unavoidable facet of English life, a manifestation of what one expert called “the pain of being British”. On the other hand, surely there are votes in it for the party that declares it will be tough on vomit, and tough on the causes of vomit.

Clive Hamilton is Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra. He is currently a visiting professor at Sciences Po in Paris. View his full profile here.




Time to blow my own cornet (smaller than a trumpet): John Tranter’s “Starlight: 150 Poems” (214 pages, 2010) won the 2011 Age Poetry Book of the Year and the 2011 Queensland Premier’s Award; this link takes you to “The Anaglyph” (a very long poem from the book), ten more poems from the book, details of two major Australian awards, reviews by Martin Duwell, Bronwyn Lea, Gig Ryan, and Corey Wakeling. At:

This takes you to “Starlight:: 35 pages of Notes:

Photo: John Tranter, bad hair day, 1969.


Plagiarism: It’s all the fault of the incompetent middle-brow judges of prize-giving competitions, as if we didn’t know: From a series of comments in Overland magazine (Melbourne, Australia) by Justin Clemens (see below):

“Indeed, the fact that Slattery got away with it for so long and so successfully implies that he knew his readership only-too-well, knew that the prize committees are so often composed of personages with a mediocre or restricted palate of tastes (and possibly of a restricted knowledge about poetry). The prize-giving panels are therefore partially responsible for this unfortunate sequence of unpleasant events, not so much because they didn’t know or didn’t check the details of the submissions, but because their tastes in poetry are essentially for middling, middle-brow palliatives. In other words, Slattery is an excellent confectioner of prize-winning poems…. Yet isn’t it the case that all this says something that nobody wants to admit? These current scandals in poetry confirm that people worldwide still desperately care about poetry despite its absolutely essential irrelevance to any economic indicator you might mention, and that – despite the crazy uproar surrounding the instances of plagiarism – this shows that poetry will continue to enjoy a glorious future yet.” [From:]


JUSTIN CLEMENS gained his PhD from the University of Melbourne. He publishes primarily on psychoanalysis, European philosophy, and contemporary Australian art and literature. Recent books include Minimal Domination (Surpllus 2011), Villain (Hunter Publishing 2009) and Black River ( 2007), illustrated by Helen Johnson. With Christopher Dodds and Adam Nash, he is the creator of several online art-works, notably Babelswarm (2008) and Autoscopia (2009). He is former Secretary of the Lacan Circle of Melbourne.

The Word Thief

“Andrew Slattery, a rising Australian poet, won the Rosemary Dobson Prize in 2010 for a poem with powerful lines such as “bruised like a forceps baby”; “You keep old roads open by driving on the new ones” and “Death will come quickly like a cat jumping onto the bed”.
There was one problem: the lines were written by the late Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and the American Beat poet Charles Bukowski.
Slattery was recently stripped of two other prizes after being found to have plagiarised dozens of poets including Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath.”

Yes, I plagiarised this true story from the local paper, the Sydney Morning Herald, a piece written by Literary Editor Susan Wyndham. And you can read the whole grubby story here:

Vale Elisabeth Wynhausen

Sad to say goodbye to Elisabeth Wynhausen. Happier days, 1989, New York City: John Tranter, Leon Tranter, Lyn Tranter, Elisabeth Wynhausen, Kirsten Tranter, after lunch at Katz’s Delicatessen. (And see below.)


At (note: no “z”) you can read dozens of her best pieces of writing: “Of the thousands of articles that Elisabeth wrote in her time as a journalist for The National Times, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun Herald and The Australian, she has selected these forty pieces as her favourites.” At