This is John Tranter’s Main Site at: johntranter.com
Reviews, interviews, photos, poems, prose pieces: over a thousand printed pages of free reading matter. This site has had over 50,000 visits.
“John Tranter may now be Australia’s most important poet.”
— US Publishers’ Weekly, 2007
You can download from this site and read a free ebook in epub format
of my first poetry book Parallax published in 1970: here.
You can also check out my Journal
for strange photographs,
eccentric research and
British poet Veronica Forrest-Thomson, 1947-1975, Cambridge, 1972, photograph courtesy Jonathan Culler. Born in Malaya to rubber planter John Forrest Thomson and his wife Jean (Veronica hyphenated the surname herself, having originally published under the name Veronica Forrest), she grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. She studied at the Universities of Liverpool and Cambridge, and later taught at the Universities of Leicester and Birmingham. Her critical study Poetic Artifice: A Theory of Twentieth-Century Poetry was published by Manchester University Press in 1978. Her poetry collections included Identi-kit (1967), the award-winning Language-Games (1971) and the posthumous On the Periphery (1976). Subsequent gatherings of her work include Collected Poems and Translations (1990) and Selected Poems (1999). A further Collected Poems, minus the translations, was published in 2008 by Shearsman Books in association with Allardyce Book. Forrest-Thomson died in April 1975 at the age of 27. [Wikipedia] For more, see Jacket magazine 20 at http://jacketmagazine.com/20/index.html
[»»] The Best Australian Poems 2011 In 2011 I was asked to guest-edit this volume, which turned out to be very popular. Here is my Introduction, and an Interview conducted by the publishers, Black Inc, in Melbourne. [Also noted in my Journal in September, 2012]
[»»] The Elephant Has Left the Room:
Jacket magazine and the Internet; by John Tranter: Available now here on the website of the Journal for the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. Abstract:
“Australian poet John Tranter trained in all aspects of publishing, from hand-lettering to editing, from litho platemaking to screen printing, and developed an early familiarity with computers. The development of the Internet in the 1990s found him armed with a formidable array of skills. He published the free international Internet-only magazine Jacket single-handed in 1997. Jacket quickly grew to become the most widely read and highly respected literary magazine ever published from Australia. In late 2010 John Tranter gave it to the University of Pennsylvania, where it continues to flourish. This memoir traces John Tranter’s publication of literary materials on the Internet including the technical and literary problems faced by Jacket, and outlines the many other projects that resulted in the Internet publication of over fifty thousand mostly Australian poems, articles, reviews, interviews and photographs.” [Also noted in my Journal in September 2012]
Here’s some of what I wrote for Jacket2 in Philadelphia from October 2012 to February 2013 — Check it out here. John Ashbery in Jacket — Calendar of Poets and Days: poems for holiday cards, compiled by Elaine Equi — The Elephant has Left the Room — «Jacket» magazine and the Internet, 1997-2010 — Veronica Forrest-Thomson, British poet and critic, dead in 1975 at the age of 27 — items in «Jacket» magazine on US poet Barbara Guest — Noah Eli Gordon interviews US poet Jennifer Moxley — When and where a major ripple on the the new wave of poetry began: Angel Hair magazine, Lewis Warsh and Anne Waldman, 1966 to 1978 — The New Russian Poetry: Over 70 items, poems and articles, in Jacket 36 — and lots more… — something new every few days… forty posts, links to hundreds of items…
[»»] 800 Jacket Book Reviews: This list provides quick links to some eight hundred book reviews in Jacket magazine, up to and including issue 40, sorted by the Author of the book under review. It is about 60 printed pages long. [Also noted in my Journal in July 2012]
[»»] 120 Jacket Interviews: This list provides quick links to one hundred and twenty interviews in Jacket magazine up to and including Jacket 40 (late 2010), sorted by the interviewee’s last name.
[Also noted in my Journal in July 2012]
Basil Bunting, Cumbria, 1980.
Photograph © Jonathan Williams
[»»] Basil Bunting and the CIA: …Bunting was an active participant in the plot engineered by the CIA, MI6 and Anglo Oil to depose Mossadeq, the democratically elected leader of Iraq, whose administration, as Wikipedia says, “introduced a wide range of social reforms but is most notable for its nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC/AIOC) (later British Petroleum or BP)… Mossadeq… was removed from power in a coup on 19 August 1953, organised and carried out by the United States CIA at the request of the British MI6.” Soon Shah Pahlevi and the CIA-trained SAVAK, his repressive secret police force, took power. [More…] [Also noted in my Journal on 2012/07/10.]
[»»] The Literary Thoroughfares of Lynbrook, Victoria: In the fairly new suburb of Lynbrook, in the South-eastern Melbourne City of Casey, over fifty streets and parks are named after Australian writers. …
[More… Five Pages] [Also noted in my Journal on 2012/07/02.]
Rosemary Dobson by Norman Lindsay, detail; courtesy National Library of Australia
The Australian poet Rosemary Dobson, whose first book «In a Convex Mirror» was published in 1944, and whose new «Collected Poems» came out in early 2012, passed away on 27 June 2012. She was 92 and had been living in a nursing home in Canberra. Read my 5,800-word interview with Rosemary in 2004.
[»] Three Australian Poets: Christopher Brennan, Lesbia Harford, Kenneth Slessor:
I know what the tyranny of distance is all about. I grew up on an isolated farm five miles from the nearest country town, which was itself two hundred miles from the nearest city. Few if any of my school friends went on to university, and most became farmers. But I was lucky in my choice of parents: my father was a teacher, and my mother taught me to read before I went to school. [More on this site]
Prose: dozens of items including What Is Skeuomorphism? — Advice to a New Writer (hint: find another career) — A Week in New York, October-November 2003 — Why is modern poetry so difficult? — Bruce Beaver, 1928-2004, an obituary — Martin Johnston: a 20-page introduction — The Illusion of Authenticity: on frauds, literary prizes and Janet Frame — Four Diversions and a Prose-poem on the Road to a Poetics — Three John Ashberys: an Introduction — and more.
The immensely useful and free encyclopaedia Wikipedia provides a clear definition of “skeuomorphism” (skeuos vessel or tool, morphe shape). A skeuomorph is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original...
The word “skeuomorphism” is recently popular in English in 2012, I suspect because of the furore over Apple’s skeuomorphic designs for its ubiquitous computer software. Check out this image: see the little bit of torn paper just below the fake-leather strip across the head of the fake paper iCal calendar in the picture, just below the fake-embossed word “Year”? Torn paper? On a computer screen?!?! What were they thinking!?!?
But relax! The practice goes back to the birth of civilisation. Ancient Greek architecture abounds in skeuomorphism…
[more here] [Also noted in my Journal on 2012-06-14.]
[»»] Advice to a New Writer:
I’ve been writing and publishing poetry for half a century. Now and then I receive enquiries from people starting out to be a writers, 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 people letters, and since what I say is always the same, here it is… Find another career. Please. [continued here.]
[Also noted in my Journal on 2012-06-06.]
OLD: [»»] «Free Grass» magazine.
«Free Grass» splashed into the pond of little “underground” magazines in Australia in 1968. Like most of the others («The Great Auk», «Ourglass», «Mok», «Cross-currents», «Transit» and «Free Poetry») it was roneod, the editorial standards were loose, to say the least, and there was a strong counter-cultural flavour to the thing. Strangest of all, it lived up to its title: it was literally free. Dozens of copies landed gratis in alternative and literary bookstores, to be given away to the bemused customers, and into the mailboxes of young poets and their friends. But when the magazine’s keen fans tried to contact the editor, they discovered two things: even though the magazine quoted generous rates of payment for contributions, no editor’s name was given, and there was no postal address. The truth slowly leaked out: one morning in late 1968 I (Sydney poet John Tranter, editor of «Transit» magazine) had written the whole of «Free Grass», all five foolscap pages of it from nine imaginary contributors each with his or her distinctive approach to verse, typing it directly onto mimeograph stencils, interspersing my spontaneous lyric effusions with nonsense sentences and fragments from a list of cryptic crossword clues in the daily paper. I ran it off the next day, and mailed out the copies. (Photo: John Tranter, Sydney, c. 1969) Noted in my Journal on 2012/06/01.
Check out this page, with links to over a hundred photos by John Tranter.
John Tranter, Sydney, 2009
photo by Anders Hallengren. More photos of John Tranter «here»
Starlight: 150 Poems (UQP, September 2010) wins the
2011 Age Poetry Book of the Year: from the judges’ comments:
“AFTER a career of more than 40 years, John Tranter has become that paradoxical thing: the postmodern master. Ghosting others’ poems, using “proceduralist” approaches to composition and revising and mistranslating “classic” works (such as Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal), Tranter produces something entirely original and — most importantly — superbly entertaining. The inventiveness of Starlight seems unending, offering us a countless array of brilliant images and atmospheres, hilarious ideas and compelling melanges of styles and registers. Starlight could well be Tranter’s masterpiece.” — David McCooey, The Saturday Age. Saturday 06 August 2011.
Starlight: 150 Poems (UQP, September 2010) wins the
2011 Queensland Premier’s Award for poetry: from the judges’ comments:
This book can be seen as the culmination of John Tranter’s middle career, a period marked by explorations of the ways in which poems can be generated. The most important poem of the collection is probably the first, “The Anaglyph”, which already seems like the major Australian poem of this century so far. Here, an answer is written to Ashbery’s “Clepsydra” whereby the original is evacuated so that only the first and last words of each line remain and the new poem is written by retaining them. Although this description of «Starlight: 150 Poems» makes it seem formally obsessive, it is still a book of poems that has a lot to say and “The Anaglyph” — in part a parody, in part a homage and in part an answer to an early poem by Tranter’s great middle-period mentor — is very much a poem about those modern obsessions of textuality and influence.
From Andrew Wilkins, in Bookseller + Publisher, Sept. 2010: “The publication of Starlight… follows the highly successful Urban Myths (2006), which won just about every literary award going, including the overall prize in the South Australian Premier’s Award for Literature… Reading the 150 poems in this collection is to spend time in the company of a writer steeped (well-versed?) in the work of other poets, and able to assume different narrative voices at will… Infiltrating his work is a dry, laconic wit and a rich understanding of culture and history. […] A particular pleasure was the lively sequence ‘At the Movies’, which ruminates on films of the past, and Tranter’s updated response to Baudelaire’s celebrated Les Fleurs du mal, which is every bit as wicked and visceral as the original.”
At the top right of this page you can find links to various reviews of the book, news about the book’s reception, selections of poems from the book, and extensive notes on the poems. Elsewhere on the net, you can read poems from this book here, here, and here. So see the ‘Starlight’ links, above right.
Once available as Kindle ebooks: now not available! Soon to be re-released as free e-pub books! Free? Cheaper than a good glass of beer!
Ten out-of-print books all by John Tranter… over five hundred pages of hard-to-get poetry for peanuts, carefully edited and designed to follow the exact contents of the original out-of-print editions. They will be available from this page in March 2014.
1970 Parallax and other poems:
1972 Red Movie and other poems:
1974 The Blast Area:
1976 The Alphabet Murders:
1977 Crying in Early Infancy: 100 Sonnets:
1979 Dazed in the Ladies Lounge:
1982 Selected Poems 1982:
1997 Gasoline Kisses
2011 Update: on 25 May 2011, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of New South Wales, joined Australian poets, educators, policy makers and supporters of the literary community to celebrate the launch of the Australian Poetry Library website. The soirée event, held at Government House, was a night to honour and pay tribute to many of Australia’s poets, and was enjoyed by all who braved the wild and wet weather in Sydney. Here’s the new site: [»»]
[...] Brian Johns AO, Chair of the Copyright Agency Limited Cultural Fund Committee, made some impassioned comments about the value of supporting our creators through the Australian Poetry Library website saying, “This is an imaginative way of supporting our poets, and linking their work to the educational sector to the benefit of all”. Dr Kate Lilley, daughter of well-known poet Dorothy Hewitt, read one of her mother’s most well-loved poems, “This Version of Love”, and Meredith McKinney, daughter of Judith Wright, read “Eve to Her Daughters”, one of her personal favourites from her mother’s collection. John Tranter, the originator of this concept and one of the driving forces behind this project, delivered a rousing reading of a poem from one of his great friends John Forbes, entitled “Monkey’s Pride”. Many were amused to discover that this poem was actually named after a racehorse on which he won a few dollars that day! (from CAL publicity)
Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected (UQP, 2006, 322 pages) 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 books published in 2006 or 2007, and
— The 2008 South Australian Premier’s Prize for the best book overall (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. You can read the judges’ [»»] readers’ reports here. You can download a PDF file of the first half of the book here: [»»] Urban Myths: 523 pages. You can also read 100 pages of notes to the book [»»] here on this site, and you can order the (beautifully) printed version of the book direct from [»»] the publisher.
Would you like to know the secret of John Tranter’s success? He always keeps this advice in mind, from [»»] Screenwriting, a book by Richard Walter: When asked to offer his single most important piece of advice for writers, writer Tommy Thompson responded after a long, thoughtful pause: Every day, no matter what else you do, get dressed.
Note from John Tranter: This site began in 1998. It is not a weblog, updated every day. Instead, it grows gradually, and is designed to be a long-term useful resource for people wanting to know about my life and my work. It is already over a thousand printed pages long.
Here you can read my [»»] poems, and read about my life (here’s a biographical [»»] note) and what has formed my writing practice. There are [»»] interviews with me and [»»] reviews of my books (not all the reviews are favourable!) and [»»] photos taken at various stages of my life.
Who am I? I sometimes wonder… My father wanted me to be a farmer, and I wanted to be a fighter pilot or a buddhist monk. What lonely occupations! Fortunately we were both wrong. I have been writing poetry for forty years; twenty books of poetry (here is a [»»] list) and a book of experimental fiction, [»»] Different Hands. I also edited four anthologies including co-editing the Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (1991), published in Britain and the US as the Bloodaxe Book of Modern Australian Poetry. In 1997 I founded the free Internet literary magazine [»»] Jacket. In 2010 I arranged to give the magazine, with its eight thousand or so pages of back issues, to the University of Pennsylvania. They will take over the joy and the burden of Jacket in 2011, and will give it a good home, ensuring its long-term growth and its archival future.
Finally, Q: What’s a tranter? A: Here’s Thomas Hardy:
from: The Fire at Tranter Sweatley’s
THEY had long met o’ Zundays — her true love and she —
And at junketings, maypoles, and flings;
But she bode wi’ a thirtover uncle, and he
Swore by noon and by night that her goodman should be
Naibor Sweatley — a gaffer oft weak at the knee
From taking o’ sommat more cheerful than tea —
Who tranted, and moved people’s things.[…]