Ultra: 25 poems
Brandl & Schlesinger, $21.95 pb, 60 pp
Many see John Tranter as an important, if slightly peripheral, figure in contemporary Australian poetry. He is well known for his long involvement in the Sydney poetry scene, as well as for his role as an editor, particularly for his editing, with Philip Mead, of the Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (1991) and, more recently, of the internet poetry journal Jacket.
Tranter’s prominence in the history of Australian poetry is related to the institution of a largely American-inspired late modernism which introduced Australian readers to certain innovative devices – among them, Olsen’s projective verse and the casual, ‘jazzy’ freev-erse voice – but also to the relationship between popular culture and the politics of personal experience. It is partly thanks to the Tranter/Mead anthology, its emphasis on the precedent of the ‘hoax’ of Ern Malley, that the many (post or hyper) modernist poets presently writing are able to see themselves within a tradition of modernist experiment, within a context in which Australian poetry is more or less a product of the same factors that produced modernist, and hence ‘post’-modernist, poetry elsewhere in the world.