Tag Archives: John Tranter

Only The Best…

Submissions are now open for Black Inc. Publishing’s The Best Australian Poems 2011, so if you have had some recent work published (after August 1 2010), or you have an unpublished gem, this is a great opportunity to have your work anthologised alongside many of Australia’s finest.

Editing the anthology this year is John Tranter, who takes the editorial reigns from Robert Adamson after a great two-year stint. Full submission details can be found at the Best Australian Writing site.

I have long been a reader of both Tranter and Adamson’s work and over the last few years, I have searched long and hard in second hand book stores all over the country collecting their extensive catalogues. One book that has continued to elude me though is Tranter’s 3rd collection, The Blast Area, so you can imagine the smile that spread across my face when I discovered an online version of the book. You can download the pdf version of The Blast Area here. And believe me, it is well worth the click!

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Australian Poetry & Song

So it’s Australia Day…

I am not one for all the nationalistic flag waving that seems to have taken a stronghold in our culture these days, in fact, I find it downright frightening.

I do, however, often celebrate the greatness of this country through poetry & song. So if you are looking for a good hit of Australian sounds today, here’s my tips:

I came across this fantastic archive of Australian & New Zealand poets reading their work as part of last year’s NZ Electronic Poetry Centre’s two-part symposium held in Auckland & Sydney. It features readings by some of our finest contemporary poets – Ken Bolton, Pam Brown, John Tranter, Peter Minter, Jill Jones & last year’s winner of the Val Vallis Award for an unpublished poem, Michelle Cahill. There’s plenty of good stuff to dive into… so head to the NZEPC Page and slip inside a poem or three.

And if it’s Australian songs you want… then here’s my big three:

More than any other album, The Triffids – Born Sandy Devotional, captures the vastness of Australia. Wide Open Road is such an important song… David McComb’s voice still grips my heart tightly and the band ache inside me. It is a song of longing… a song of distance & light.

I recall a schoolboy coming home/ through fields of cane/ to a house of tin and timber/ And in the sky/ a rain of falling cinders

Cattle & Cane is a song you can attach memories to, more like a painting than a story. With it’s elegant acoustic/electric arrangement and distinctively Australian lyric, it has become an important part of the fabric of our sonic landscape.

In 2008, Under the Milky Way was voted by a readers of The Weekend Australian as the best Australian song of the last 20 years.  The shimmering beauty of this song is timeless… a true classic. Am so looking forward to seeing the band play a special one off show – A Psychedelic Symphony – at the Sydney Opera House this April with the George Ellis Orchestra. 30 years and The Church are still looking forward…

And if you have not seen Steve Kilbey’s ARIA Hall-of-Fame acceptance speech, do yourself a favour. Pure brilliance!

So that’s my sounds of Australia… Enjoy!


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Poetry Picks of 2010 – Phillip A. Ellis

Starlight: 150 Poems by John Tranter (St Lucia : UQPress, 2010) ISBN: 978702238451

My pick for the poetry publication that rocked my world in 2010 is, in many ways, a conservative one. It is no surprise, really, that John Tranter’s Starlight would head the list, not because he is so dominant, or so (dare I say it) predictable, but for the fact that Tranter is, simply, one of the best living Australian poets. He is at once challenging and entertaining, and his work retains a freshness that vivifies his concern and voice.

And a lot of it is damn funny as well.

I’d like to illustrate what I mean by a quick glance at “Well-Equipped Men” on page 83, to cite one poem. Already the humour is there, the “Well-Equipped” of the title treading the fine line between bawdy and the almost literal. The wordplay extends beyond the title, as you’d expect; the “clever Cleveland” at the end of light perrenially delights me, and the title really only comes into play about halfway through the sestet. Where the sonnet starts talking about the “muscly brothers in the rusting truck.”

The poem travels, as well, from “old-fashioned plaid” to “popular songs from the fifties” to “tawdry items,” in the octet, to “a dazzling uniform” and “a loaded sawn-off shotgun” through the brothers “on target for the abortion clinic” to the end where “the news story / inflamed them and no one is responsible.” That ending, that final image just works wonders for me, and Tranter packs worlds into the compass of small poems here, small literally, not figuratively.

Of course, this is only one poem among many others. And it can only be
said that there’s a lot more there where that one poem came from.

You can find out more about Starlight and purchase a copy of the book here.

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic and scholar, and has recently completed English Honours through the University of New England. His poetry collection, The Flayed Man, has been published by Gothic Press, and he is working on another collection, to appear through Diminuendo PressHippocampus Press has published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei. He is the editor of Australian Reader, Calenture, Studies in Australian Weird Fiction, Melaleuca and Breaking Light Poetry Magazine.

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Things to do in Melbourne when you’re walking (part II)

Today I had the pleasure of spending a bit of time on the 3RRR airwaves with Alicia Sometimes and Jeff Sparrow, talking poetry in Brisbane, the mighty QLD Poetry Festival and the state of poetry publishing in Australia. And as Alicia knows I love my music, we also talked musical influences and I read my poem, January 29, 2009 for the late John Martyn. Aural Text really is a great promoter of all things poetry, so I recommend you get online and listen to the podcasts and if you can work it into your week, don’t forget you can livestream it each Wednesday.

On the way there and home, I continued my pilgrimage to many of my favourite Melbourne haunts. Today I visited:

The French Lettuce: Voted by The Age as baking the best vanilla slice in Melbourne and for mine, they are on the money. Served with a generous dollop of rasperry sauce on the side, this is one heavenly dessert. Don’t balk at the $5 price tag… it is worth every cent.

Alice’s Bookshop: For secondhand poetry, this store is hard to go past. Today I picked up a gorgeous copy of Kenneth Patchen’s ‘Hurrah for Anything/Poemscapes and A Letter to God and a pristine Black Sparrow Press edition of ‘Without Music’ by Michael Palmer. So many other books there that I also wanted to take home… another time.

Polyester Records: Another great independent music store that boasts an extensive catalogue of Australian and overseas artists. For me you know you are on to a good thing when they stock artists such as Tren Brothers, Vic Chesnutt, Uncle Tupelo and every album by The Necks.

Polyester Books: Dubbing itself the world’s freakiest bookstore, Polyester stocks literature, art books, film, mags & zines from the edge. If you are looking for a bookstore that holds the censorship laws in the contempt they so richly deserve, then look no further than Polyester.

Horton Books: This place specialises in quality remaindered books… and I emphasise quality. A really great Beat Literature section, some fine poetry and a large number of art books. And did I mention that most of the books in store are about half the recommended retail price? Well worth checking out!

Pellegrinis: What do I say… this place is a Melbourne icon and has been since the 1950’s. Every time I visit Melbourne, I always stop in for the spaghetti bolognaise. It is without a doubt the best I have ever eaten.

Tonight, I am off to Poets Stripped Bare, feat. John Tranter & Lisa Gorton sharing insights into their creative process and reading a selection of their work. Very much looking forward to it.

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In the Red Chamber

Just back from a cracking reading held in the gorgeous Red Chamber of Old Parliament House.

The evening opened with a reading from Ross Clark, who read a great new poem, The Death of Jazz (one to keep your eye out for). Next up were Emily XYZ & Myers Bartlett who totally nailed their set, opening with bill of rights: prologue, the whole room reverberating as they echoed, ‘You are called upon to deliberate those things which are essential to liberty.’ Never has a poem seemed so at home… every politician needs to hear this poem! They then went straight into the second part of the poem, Separation of Church and State. So good! Here’s a clip of them performing it at Cornelia St Cafe in 2008.

And to close the night, John Tranter gave us a selection of poems from his soon to be released collection, Starlight: 150 poems. His reimaginings of Charles Baudelaire’s poems from Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) were a real highlight. I totally recommend checking out the selection Tranter has published on his website: Starlight Selection. His reading of Paradise was particularly mesmerising. Can’t wait to get my hands on this collection.

And now, it’s time for dreaming…


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Jumping the Poetic Hurdle (part 7): an interview with Rosanna Licari, editor Stylus Poetry Journal

In late December/early January I interviewed a number of people involved in the print publication of poetry, including Lyn Reeves (Pardalote Press), John Knight (Post Pressed), Tiggy Johnson (page seventeen) and Ralph Wessman (Famous Reporter) to discuss the state of poetry publication and distribution in Australia. This time round, I plan to talk with a number of people publishing exclusively online to get their response.

First up I spoke with Rosanna Licari, founding editor of Stylus Poetry Journal.


Why is it that poetry, an art that arguably best reflects the speed at which we absorb ideas, information and imagery, is being neglected by corporate publishing houses and distributors throughout Australia?

Publishing is an expenisve and specialised business that employs many people who have different roles, and there are huge costs associated with marketing and distribution. The big publishing houses say the market for poetry is relatively small. Put simply, poetry doesn’t make money whereas novels and cook books do.

Perhaps more formal poetry may be considered too high brow or inaccessible for mainstream readers and other forms, such as bush poetry, less worthy or even vulgar. In fact, an IT person, who shall remain nameless, said to me recently that poetry died 150 years ago!


As publisher and editor of Stylus Poetry Journal, you have embraced technology and publish exclusively online. Initially, what influenced your decision to publish the journal online and not in the more traditional print/hard copy format?

I initially began Stylus in order to offer an opportunity for emerging poets to publish poetry. It seemed near impossible to get into the big magazines (such as Heat, Quadrant, Hecate, Island, Meanjin, Southerly, Westerly and Overland) – so many fish, such a small pond. There are many talented and well-respected poets out there.


What role do you see online publications such as Stylus, playing in the future of poetry publication and distribution?

Publishing poetry online offers other benefits in that it solves the problem of distribution and there is more exposure for the poet on the Web.You can quickly see what other writers are producing creatively. The Web is a wonderful resource.

Furthermore, it is considerably cheaper to publish online compared to costs associated with print publishing. Editing is also easier. If there has been a mistake made e.g. a typo, it’s easily fixed. This cannot happen with print publishing.

Online poetry publications are being taken more seriously now. There has been resistance in the past perhaps because print publishing has been with us for quite a while and the new medium has been considered with suspicion. Let’s face it, anybody can put anything on the Web, so quality and credibility are issues.

It was the librarians who took the bull by the horns. The National Library of Australia (NLA) initially established PANDORA (Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia) in 1996. PANDORA, Australia ’s Web Archive www.pandora.nla.gov.au archives Australian online publications and web sites it considers significant and which has long-term research value. Stylus is included in this selective archive as well as other poetry ezines and this can only promote Australian poets and poetry. Presently a collaboration of ten partners contribute to PANDORA, Australia ‘s Web Archive and each institution has its own selection criteria.

Australian universities were also interested in databases that would service their teaching and research communities. During the eighties’ several universities had developed specialist literature databases and in 1999, they decided to pool these resources into a single web-based information service. AustLit is a collaboration between Australian universities, the National Library of Australia (NLA) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). Citations and information on library holdings make up the bulk of AustLit records, but a range of selected full text of both creative and critical works is available via AustLit from a variety of sources, these being PANDORA, SETIS, the Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service at the University of Sydney, and finally, links to internet publications.

On a smaller scale, but in no way invaluable for poetry publication, was a breakthrough which occurred when UQP’s The Best Australian Poetry series, a prestigious annual print anthology, began to source online poetry from selected journals and these were published in The Best Australian Poetry 2007. Stylus was one of the online journals sourced, whereas before that only Australian print journals and newspapers were considered. (The series editors are Martin Duwell and Bronwyn Lea.)
The Best Australian Poetry 2007 was edited by John Tranter who is a true and early believer of the powers of the World Wide Web. In 1997 he founded the well-respected ezine, Jacket, and most poets I know would just salivate at the thought of being published in Jacket.

As well, Peter Rose, editor of Black Inc.’s The Best Australian Poems series which is another prestigious annual print anthology, considered poetry published online for The Best Australian Poems 2008.

John Tranter has been instrumental in pushing to get Australian poetry online. He was one of the parties reponsible for the APRIL (Australian Poetry Resources Internet Library) project. The aim of the project is to build a permanent library of resources on the Internet with the focus on Australian Poetry and so increasing circulation, reading and understanding of Australian poetry nationally and internationally. In fact, Tranter started in 2004 with a prototype website. Ulitmately, the APRIL project also wants to provide print-on-demand poetry books or collections of texts or anthologies. For more information readers can go to <http://april.edu.au/2home/home.shtml>

An area of online poetry which is still marginalised in some circles is New Media poetry which is the avant-garde of online poetry. A couple of New Media poets who have been on the radar for a while are Jayne Fenton-Keane in collaboration with David Keane, and Komninos Zervos. New web software is offering more opportunities to explore and experiment with poetry but in terms of Stylus pursuing this would involve a major overhaul and financial outlay so it is not something I am considering in the near future.


What is on the horizon for Stylus?

Stylus will continue to be produced quarterly. Last year I decided to publish haiku and its related forms only twice a year, that is, in January and July, after the haiku editor, Janice Bostok, decided to pursue her own projects. Duncan Richardson is currently in that role and Pat Prime is still Reviews editor.

What readers will see is more guest editors for the contemporary poetry section so that a variety of perspectives and styles can be viewed. It’s hoped this will happen once or twice a year.

The current issue of Stylus was guest-edited by Roland Leach, a fine Western Australian poet and the publisher of Sunline Press. Last year, QLD poet and translator, Simon Patton guest-edited an issue of contemporary Chinese poets (in translation), while another QLD poet, Jena Woodhouse guest-edited an issue of Australian women poets. The July 2009 issue will also be a special issue. But I’m going to keep that a surprise!


Check out the latest issue of Stylus Poetry Journal at www.styluspoetryjournal.com


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