John Tranter

John Tranter’s collections of poems include Late Night Radio (1998). He co-edited the Bloodaxe Book of Modern Australian Poetry and edits the Internet magazine, Jacket

Poem: ‘On the Road’

John Tranter, 17 February 2000

We met at the bar concealed behind a false front in the alley behind a curtain dyed purple and green down the stairs to the shuttered room baking in the Summer of Love, a country girl, dark glasses, twelve feet of cedar bar stacked with drinks

but we already had those drinks, and it seems in the pool of liquid on the bar surface, after I finished pawing at her soft willing body, I could see...

Poem: ‘Miss Proust’

John Tranter, 1 July 1999

To her the kissing group of husbands and wives was like a gang of schoolgirls in the laundry, all fuss and bother, no proper theory of how sexuality is conditioned by the economic strictures of society and not by the games shows and the sporting programmes or by the lies that stain the pages of cheap paper, for example, when her friends told her she was a rotten writer plumping up the pillow...

Poem: ‘Epitaphs’

John Tranter, 4 February 1999

It seems so long ago – tell me, did you bring your family to our marriage of convenience and regret? I remember your hearty cousins fresh from the Home Counties, so pleased with their good selves, ready to chance an arm, their knack with spoon and needle an astonishment. Didn’t you find time for a quick shot of something with the blokes? That one with a noticeable tic, that other...

Poem: ‘Trastevere’

John Tranter, 1 October 1998

God, here I am, hungover inside the little café near the markets, jittery, scribbling a babble of sentimental language in my purple notebook emotion container – no, buy some strawberries (fruit market) in the sun from the old Italian women who mutter ‘Thank you, signora, it’s a pleasure to serve even a rich and impious Anglo lady such as yourself, take another punnet,...

Christmas, Grandad came down from the mountains, and we had to go fishing, on the ornamental lake. The ornery mental lake, that’s what I call it. ‘Do I have to, Pop? It’s just animal death!’ Fishing, fishing, till everything is killed.

‘How’s the love-life?’ Grandad asked. My father was having trouble, some affair that was going wrong. He shook his...

Poem: ‘Pantoum: The Waiting Room’

John Tranter, 18 November 1993

The movement slows: everything grows dark. A man checks the knot in his tie. It’s twilight and a fine rain smears the windows. Will you miss your train, and the delightful party?

A man checks the knot in his tie. It’s twilight; superhuman powers will never be yours. You will miss your train, and the delightful party. They argue about civil rights. At the check-out


Poem: ‘Journey’

John Tranter, 25 June 1992

The door slides shut with a hiss and it seems we’re moving out     falteringly at first, the brick     flats tilting then     reluctantly shifting aside. We’re starting a long journey with half the plot,

some of the story, nothing to worry about and hardly a clue.     Now a canal’s rotating...

Poem: ‘Lufthansa’

John Tranter, 15 September 1988

Flying up a valley in the Alps where the rock rushes past like a broken diorama I’m struck by an acute feeling of precision – the way the wing-tips flex, just a little as the German crew adjust the tilt of the sky and bank us all into a minor course correction while the turbo-props gulp at the mist with their old-fashioned thirsty thunder – or you notice how the hostess,...

Poem: ‘Shadow Detail’

John Tranter, 25 June 1987

You press the bakelite button, and wait, and wait. Presently the lift rattles down to the ground floor, and the attendant passes you something through the brass grille.

The chlorine sifts down through the water, turning pastel blue. That woman floating fifteen feet above the floor of the pool – she’s taking medication for weight loss a cheapskate pharmaceutical that stretches and...

What became of Modernism?

C.K. Stead, 1 May 1980

What became of the Modernist movement? It was initiated by Pound and Eliot about the time of the First World War, and in America it set off a further wave of innovation (often referred to as...

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