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 http://poetrylibrary.edu.au/ which publishes over 40,000 Australian poems online, and he has a Journal at johntranter.net, a regular Commentary page at https://jacket2.org/commentary/john-tranter and a vast homepage at johntranter.com.
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.