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John Tranter: Reviewed

Starlight (2010)

   See    [»»] From Starlight: «The Anaglyph»     [»»] From Starlight: 10 poems     [»»] Starlight: 35 pages of Notes

   Starlight: reviewed by    [»»] Martin Duwell     [»»] Bronwyn Lea     [»»] Gig Ryan     [»»] Corey Wakeling

    [»»] Starlight wins the 2011 Age Poetry Book of the Year     and     [»»] the 2011 Qld Premier’s Award

Urban Myths (2006)

  See    [»»] 90 Pages of Notes   Urban Myths: reviewed by   [»»] Martin Duwell   [»»] Peter Pierce   [»»] Roger Caldwell (UK)

  Urban Myths: the [»»] Victorian Premier’s Award and [»»] the NSW Premier’s Award and [»»] the SA Premier’s Award

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2010 Book excerpt: [»] Rod Mengham (Ed.): Salt Companion to John Tranter.‘... This volume of essays covers all periods of the published output of John Tranter, whose standing as one of the most important figures in modern Australian poetry is now assured. Tranter is widely regarded by critics as the most important member of the so-called ‘generation of ’68’, whose chief impact on Australian literature was in terms of its insistence on the centrality of an international, metropolitan culture whose most appropriate models were to be found in American and, to a lesser extent, French writing.” The next two items below are excerpted from this book. Available now (yes, it has been moved) on John Tranter's Journal, here.

2005 Off-site: [»] Kate Fagan and Peter Minter: Murdering Alphabets, Disorienting Romance: John Tranter and Postmodern Australian Poetics. In Jacket magazine 27, April 2005, ‘... The Alphabet Murders is a modernist long poem by one reading, a postmodernist anti-epic by others; a romantic courtship of French-American cosmo-sexuality on one hand, and on the other, a retreat to the perverse safety of the solo slide night.’ Excerpted from: Rod Mengham (Ed.): Salt Companion to John Tranter.

2005 Off-site: [»] Michael Brennan Last words: Tranter and Rimbaud’s silence. In Jacket magazine 27, April 2005, ‘... Tranter’s equivocal humour and take-me-or-leave-me irony is one of the joys and impasses of his work. It runs equally throughout his most polished and lyrical pieces, such as say ‘Debbie and Co’ or ‘At the Criterion’, as through his more experimental pieces of design and impersonality, such as the later computer generated cut-ups and more recent rewritings of poets such as Hölderlin, Rilke and Rimbaud.’ Excerpted from: Rod Mengham (Ed.): Salt Companion to John Tranter.

2004 Off-site: [»] Brian Henry: ‘John Tranter’s New Form(alism): The Terminal’ ‘Tranter’s terminals are unique because they combine the conservative, influence-embracing aspect of traditional forms with the innovative aims of new forms.’ This piece has been moved to John Tranter’s Journal, here.

2004 [»]  N E W !  Chris Wallace-Crabbe: reviews «Trio» and «Studio Moon», by John Tranter “…this book sways between the trick-skating of absence and manifestations of a weather-saturated city.”

Ultra cover

 N E W !  2003 [»] Michael Farrell: “Always on the case…”: A review of John Tranter, «Ultra», (Rose Bay: Brandl and Schlesinger, 2002). First published in Cordite magazine on 6 May 2003. “At a Carlton party, someone said to me that a number of Australian poets were all right until they started imitating Ashbery: Tranter was the example given. How Ashberian is Tranter? Their mode is similar, the way they range over a topic before resting on a twig or in mid-air, yet Tranter is closer to the ground, less insouciant, more urgent, the phrasing of a private eye who’s always on the case, commissioned or not.”

2002 [»] Martin Duwell: How ‘now’ came from ‘then’: A review of John Tranter, «Ultra», (Rose Bay: Brandl and Schlesinger, 2002) and four other books. First published in «overland» no 168, 2002. pp.100—103. “Is the result interesting? In «Ultra» it is always interesting, the poems have a mysterious, satisfying quality. Some of this derives from qualities in Tranter’s style which are well known: the hyperbolic metaphors, for example, with their driving intensity…”

2000 [»] Kate Lilley: Textual Relations: John Tranter’s «The Floor of Heaven», in «Southerly» magazine, Sydney, September 2000. ‘...At the end of «The Floor of Heaven», with its title figuring spatial reversal, the veils of storytelling fall away to reveal the motives of plot and narration as erotic and textual.’

1999 [»] 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).’

1994 Off-site: [»] New Zealand poet Andrew Johnson’s detailed review of a number of books up to 1993, titled ‘Surviving Desire: The Poetry of John Tranter’, first published in «Landfall» 187, Autumn 1994, reprinted on Andrew’s site at ‘... ‘The Poem in Love’ is also important for the way in which Tranter’s ‘poetry about poetry’, his habitual public re-invention of his means of addressing us, becomes looser, lighter, more inclusive. ‘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.’

1993 [»]  N E W !  a dazzling experience  — Martin Duwell: review of At The Florida. This review first appeared in the «Weekend Australian» 13–14 November, 1993 (Review page 7) ‘For readers new to Tranter’s work, it will be a dazzling experience of a great poet in mid-career. For long-term admirers it will be a book that continues a process of searching for new modes while breaking up and kaleidoscopically realigning all the work that has gone before.’

1992 [»] Dreadful deeds of nightmare simplicity  — Carmel Bird: review of The Floor of Heaven. This review was first published in «Australian Book Review» 146, 1992: 42–43. «The Floor of Heaven» is a hypnotic read; it will stay with you when you come out of your trance…

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Alison Croggon

Alison Croggon

1992 [»] Alison Croggon reviews «The Floor of Heaven» (1992), ABC Radio National «Books and Writing», 8 November 1992. ‘...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.’

1992 [»] Catherine Kenneally reviews «The Floor of Heaven» (1992), in «Australian Book Review» 146, 1992: 43–44. ‘The stories reading almost too easily ― the themes writ large and crude … It’s an experiment in pulp; yellow-press poems.’

1992 [»] Christopher Pollnitz: review of «The Floor of Heaven» (1992), in the «Weekend Australian», October 3, 1992. ‘...even his similes seem alternative careers that the desperately fertile narrators have invented as nests for their nascent egos.’

1992 [»] Andrew Riemer: review of «The Floor of Heaven» (1992), in the «Sydney Morning Herald», September 19, 1992. ‘...a cool elegance and by a macabre whimsy which reminded me irresistibly of the best moments in «Twin Peaks».’

1991 [»] Andrew Taylor: ‘Resisting the Mad Professor: Narrative and Metaphor in the Poetry of John Tranter’, 1991. ‘Each of these narratives, which comprise the poem itself [«The Floor of Heaven»] and thus include it, are symbolic satisfactions of Desire.’

Under Berlin cover

1990? [»] Christopher Pollnitz: review of «Under Berlin» (1988), in «Scripsi», Ormond College, Melbourne University, volume 6, number 1. ‘My suggestion is that Rimbaud continues to haunt and foster Tranter’s recent poems... because of the close emotional fit that has grown up between Rimbaud’s work and his own.’

1989 [»] Kate Lilley: ‘Tranter's Plots’ — review of books up to «Under Berlin» (1988), in «Australian Literary Studies», volume 14 number 1, May 1989. ‘This muscley story-telling... comes with its own disturbing passenger-load of female fellow-travellers: whores and femmes fatales, virgins and friendly wives, waitresses with short skirts, and career-women with lesbian tendencies.

1986 [»] Andrew Taylor: ‘John Tranter: Absence in Flight’, in «Australian Literary Studies» volume 12 number 4 October 1986. ‘Such a subject constitutes or situates itself as the romantic rebel; but like the historical Rimbaud, and like the poem itself, it refuses to stay fixed. The result is a poem which seems both deeply concentrated and remarkably elusive, the subject again revealing itself as that which has no visible nature of its own with which to authorise such roles as that of Romantic rebel. These roles come to it from outside, from culture or from history, and are not an expression of the subject but an impression on it. The subject itself appears only, as I said before, in a style of remaining invisible within their multitudinous flux.’

1984 [»] David Carter: ‘John Tranter: Popular Mysteries’ (review of «Selected Poems», 1982.) ‘...It interrogates the Magian Heresy but at one further remove, finding the very symbolist paradox, and not merely its paradoxical goal, to be a seductive fraud (and yet still unavoidable, irresistible, as poetry keeps discovering itself).’

1983 [»] John Forbes: review of «Selected Poems» (1982), in «Meanjin» magazine number 2, 1983. ‘Tranter is like the coyote chasing the roadrunner, using a great deal of energy and cunning, but never catching him.’

1982 [»] Martin Duwell: review of «Selected Poems» (1982), in the «Australian Weekend Magazine» 11-12 September 1982. “It’s a magnificent poem, deadly serious and uproariously funny at the same time, full of submerged quotations and parody.”

Dazed cover

1981 [»] David Brooks: review of «Dazed in the Ladies Lounge» (1979), in the «Canberra Times», 26 December 1981. “ poem after poem, the poet distances himself from the hosts of Lotus-eaters amongst which he himself once feasted.”

1980 [»] Rae Desmond Jones: review of «The New Australian Poetry» (1979) edited by John Tranter, and other books of poetry by John Tranter, in Australian Literary Studies v.9 n.4 October 1980 (pp.497–501). “The introduction displays Tranter’s strength as one of the best reviewers of poetry in this country. His treatment of specific poems is accurate, intelligent and generous. Yet where his grasp of the meaning and direction of the poems is confident, when he is obliged to treat the artistic/social milieu and the area of origins, he is tentative and uncomfortable. Critical integrity is indicated by this willingness to write in areas of his weakness, and not restrict himself to his strengths.”

Crying cover

1978? [»] Gary Catalano: review of «Crying in Early Infancy» (1977), 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.[…] In his earlier, late-Sixties work, Tranter was almost alone amongst young Australian poets in his declared debt to the work of Eliot; I think he should turn again to that source of influence and salvage what he can from his present ruin. For the influences he is now working under are clearly corrupting and destructive ones. His technique is sloppy and inexact, and he rarely has anything arresting to say. As Troilus puts it, “words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart.”

Lyn Tranter and John Tranter, NSW snowfields, circa 1970

Lyn Tranter and John Tranter, NSW snowfields, circa 1970

1976  N E W !  [»] Jennifer Maiden: reviews John Tranter: «The Alphabet Murders» (Angus and Robertson, 1976). This piece first appeared in «New Poetry» magazine, volume 24 number 2 1976. “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.”

1971 [»] Virginia Osborne: The Poetry Explosion: Virginia Osborne introduces six talented young Sydney poets, «Vogue Australia», April 1971. ‘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.’


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