John Tranter

 John Tran­ter is Australia’s most highly-awarded poet. His book Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected (2006) won four major state awards, and his lat­est book, Starlight: 150 Poems (2010), won the Mel­bourne Age Book of the Year poetry award and the Queens­land Premier’s Award for Poetry. He received a Doc­tor­ate of Cre­ative Arts from the Uni­ver­sity of Wol­lon­gong and is an Hon­orary Asso­ciate in the Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney School of Let­ters, Arts and Media and an hon­orary fel­low of the Aus­tralian Acad­emy of the Human­i­ties. He has given more than a hun­dred read­ings and talks in var­i­ous cities around the world. He has pub­lished more than twenty col­lec­tions of verse, and has edited six antholo­gies, includ­ing The Pen­guin Book of Mod­ern Aus­tralian Poetry (with Philip Mead) which was a stan­dard text for twenty years. He founded the free Inter­net mag­a­zine Jacket in 1997 and granted it to the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia in 2010, he is the founder of the Aus­tralian Poetry Library at which pub­lishes over 40,000 Aus­tralian poems online, and he has a Jour­nal at, a reg­u­lar Com­men­tary page at and a vast home­page at

Pho­to­gaph: John Tran­ter, Cam­bridge, 2001, by Kar­lien van den Beukel


Poem Begin­ning with a Line by Ken­neth Koch

This Con­necti­cut land­scape would have pleased Ver­meer:
The pearly light that pho­tographs the town,
The autumn bless­ing and the bit­ter cheer
of win­ter close behind, with frosty crown.
The week­ender lies aban­doned for the week,
the den and sun­room vacant. On a couch,
the New Yorker open at a page that speaks
of Aquas­cu­tum, Har­ris Tweed and scotch.   

O Aquas­cu­tum, shield me from the blast,
And Har­ris Tweed, pro­tect me from the cold.
As for scotch, let’s leave it till the last
To warm my aching bones as I grow old.
     Ver­meer, to please his mis­tress, heard her sighs,
     And painted pretty land­scapes full of lies.


Another Poem Begin­ning with a Line by Ken­neth Koch

This Con­necti­cut land­scape would have pleased Ver­meer —
The trash, the pickup truck, the cans of beer —
If only Ver­meer hadn’t been such a shit.
Oh well, it’s hard for an artist to paint a hit — 
To make the cut, to climb the greasy grade,
To make a real impres­sion on the trade —
It’s really hard, when you’re totally pissed.
It isn’t easy, when you’ve slit your wrist. 

So fuck Con­necti­cut and fuck Ver­meer —
Who is this Dutch­man with his can of cheer?
I’d rather look at Gus­ton, or some Pol­locks —
Who cares if the theory’s mostly bol­locks?
     The land­scape is really just a frame
     For some­thing that just sat there all the same.