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John Tranter: A selection of poems

[»] «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 approache 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. Noted in my Journal on 2012/06/01.

[»] “The Anaglyph” initially resulted from a commission from a Toronto magazine to write an essay of any type on John Ashbery’s 1967 long poem “Clepsydra”. In response I took the first word or two and also the last word or two of each line from John Ashbery’s poem, and wrote material of my own to fill each line out. “The Anaglyph” is collected in «Starlight: 150 Poems», published in 2010 by the University of Queensland Press.

[»] “Five Quartets”. There has been some discussion as to whether T.S. Eliot’s poem “Four Quartets” is a Modernist poem or not: I think not. This poem, however, is definitely a Postmodernist one; it is a truncated version of “Four Quartets” which, at nearly a thousand lines, seemed to me to be far too long. This version is Eliot’s poem with most of the words removed, and runs to a more economical seventy-five lines.

[»] Ten poems from «Starlight: 150 Poems», UQP, 2010. “Rink” is loosely based on a rejected scene from the hypothetical movie Skater (David Lynch, 1976). The rest are responses to some poems by Baudelaire, written in Umbria in October 2009. Poems: / Rink / Elevation / Venus / The Sick Muse / Albatross / The Mask / Hair / Hymn to Beauty / Paradise / Country Music.

[»] Eighteen early “Fugitive Poems” with notes by the author

[»] Seven sections from «The Alphabet Murders» (1976)

[»] Butterfly (c. 1988)

[»] A PDF file of the first half of the book The Floor of Heaven, 1991, a collection of four loosely-linked narrative poems. This file of half the book 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’s website:

The book can also be purchased on the internet.

The Floor of Heaven, cover image

‘A rattling good read’  — JOHN ASHBERY

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

Urban Myths, cover image

[»] A PDF file of the first half of the book Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected. Printed copies of the entire book can be purchased from the publisher’s website:

John Tranter, New York City, April 2008, photo © 2008 Charles Bernstein/PennSound.

John Tranter, New York City, April 2008, photo © 2008 Charles Bernstein/PennSound.

Off-site: John Tranter recorded in the USA: «Close Listening» — readings and conversations at WPS1.Org John Tranter, New York, April 3, 2008, Reading from Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected (24:32): MP3

Off-site: In conversation with Charles Bernstein (29:15): MP3 Close Listening produced and recorded by Charles Bernstein ©2008 John Tranter and Charles Bernstein

Off-site: Poetry reading: at the Kelly Writers House, Philadelphia March 30, 2005
1. "I Know a Man," by Robert Creeley (0:24): MP3
Off-site: Poetry readings: in New York City, April 2008: Complete reading (53:38): MP3
2. Invitation to America (1:57): MP3
3. Miss Proust (2:47): MP3
4. After Laforgue (1:46): MP3
5. Where the Boys Are (0:52): MP3
6. Benzedrine (1:45): MP3
7. Transatlantic (2:13): MP3
8. The Waiting Room (1:40): MP3
9. Poolside (1:09): MP3
10. God on a Bicycle (1:02): MP3
11. Aurora (1:49): MP3
12. Moonshine Sonata (1:04): MP3
13. Voodoo (2:00): MP3.

Crying in Early Infancy, cover image

[»] A PDF file of the book Crying in Early Infancy — 100 Sonnets, Makar Press, St Lucia, 1977. The cover design is by Lyn Tranter. This file is free to read in its entirety on this site, but it cannot be printed. You can order a printed copy of the omnibus volume Trio, which contains this book, from Gleebooks in Australia:
or from the publisher, Salt Publishing, in Cambridge UK:

Trio, cover

Trio is a 162-page omnibus collection of three books of poetry by John Tranter published over a period of wide-ranging stylistic experiment in the 1970s: Red Movie, his second book, published in 1972, Crying in Early Infancy, a collection of one hundred mainly free-verse sonnets (1977), and Dazed in the Ladies Lounge (1979), with extensive notes. It is only available in printed form from bookshops.

The cover photograph by the author is a frame from a television program featuring Gerry Mulligan playing baritone saxophone.

The Blast Area, 2010 cover

A PDF file of the book The Blast Area is available as a free download from Lulu.Com, published by [»] Argotist EBooks in the UK. To download a copy typeset by the author, on this site, click [here].

Published as a pamphlet in 1974, The Blast Area was John Tranter’s third book of poetry, and has long been out of print. The poems are varied and strange. Some veer away from common sense into a quirky surrealism, and one ends with a rhyme in English and French (the French borrowed from Rimbaud):

Wax the ski. Compress the snow.
She: Et mon bureau?

The final third of the book consists of “The Poem in Love”, a sequence of fifteen pseudo-sonnets, set up by an epigraph from the dubious Paul Ducasse:

It’s possible that a poem in its own realm of being may take on a life of its own, and thus return by means of love some of the anguish and the suffering invested by the poet in its creation.

Critic Andrew Johnson wrote: “‘The Poem’, in this poem, might stand for the variety of strategies we employ to make sense of the world, and for the fleeting, unstable patterns we think we perceive in our experience. It’s as if having reached an extreme of cynicism about ‘meaning’, Tranter lets it in through the back door, and a new-found humour with it.”

You can also obtain a copy of the text (more or less as it appeared in the original pamphlet publication) from this site, by clicking on the 2010 cover image, above.

Parallax, cover

John Tranter’s first book Parallax (1970) may be read on the University of Sydney Library SETIS site here: [»]

Storm Clouds, Sydney, December 2007

One of my poems is titled ‘Storm over Sydney’. This photo would serve as an illustration:
Balmain, Sydney, December 2007, photo John Tranter

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