Commentaries - February 2013
In his 1961 introduction to Rae Dalven’s translations, W.H. Auden catalogued the poetic “conventions and devices” that Cavafy’s poetry fails to provide the English translator looking for equivalents: the imagery of metaphor and simile, a style or register of diction (English has “nothing comparable to the rivalry of demotic and purist” Greek, the mixture of which is the most characteristic aspect of Cavafy’s texture), ornament. Yet of the versions by several translators Auden had read, “every one of them was immediately recognizable as a poem by Cavafy; nobody else could have written it.” So what is it, he asks, that “survives translation and excites?” Auden’s answer was a tone of voice, one that “reveals a person with a unique perspective on the world.” Later, in his 2006 introduction to Aliki Barnstone’s translations, Gerald Stern amends this to a sensibility, a “tender humanism, a humanitas supreme.” Peter Bien had called it an attitude of “resignation,” understood not as despair but a kind of wisdom. I put the question to two experienced translators, both familiar to readers of Jacket2, who know Cavafy’s work, and one of whom has ably translated him: Murat Nemet-Nejat and George Economou. Is there still today a je ne sais quois, a Cavafy “magic” as Forster called it, that survives translation? If so, how would you characterize it? Is there a parallel with the quality in modern Turkish poetry that Nemet-Nejat calls eda?
Nemet-Nejat: Yes, I very much see such a parallel between eda and the tonal quality or “attitude” Auden and Stern are writing about. (I had immediately made the same connection reading the comments in your e-mail).
Though the idea of “attitude” is part of it, the concept of eda is more complex. As you mention, it has to do with a conceptual, a psychic essence—an otherness and sacredness—which is linked to an almost fetishistic obsession/love with a specific place (in this case Istanbul), to the agglutinative essence of the Turkish syntax (which gives the language an incredible ability for tonal shifts and for nuance, an elusive intimacy) and to a spiritual essence which I call “a godless Sufism.”
Of the three qualities of eda, the one most relevant to translating Cavafy into English, in my opinion, has to do with agglutinative syntax. Greek also is highly agglutinated. In agglutination, meaning emerges from cadence, more specifically the movements of thought and feelings the sentence creates (I write about it in “The Idea Of a Book”). As has been observed, Cavafy uses almost no metaphors. The essence of the poetry, which is a spiritual one, derives from the modulations of thoughts and feelings it embodies, the tonality it creates. Without capturing that motion no translation can succeed in my view. Almost everything else is secondary.
This creates a dilemma for the English translators of Cavafy in two ways: first, English syntax has a strict word order, the very opposite of agglutination. Second, meter traditionally in English is based on syllable stress patterns whereas in eda the music derives from cadences. Syllables in words in isolation are flat with no intrinsic stresses. I think these two differences create the “lack” (the sacred distance or the iron gate) Cavafy’s translator into English must negotiate. He/she can do so, in my view, by creating distortions in the English language, making it “grow a new limb,” something I tried to do in my own translations from Turkish.
There is a Turkish poet who, on the points we discussed, is very close to Cavafy. He is Orhan Veli. Like Cavafy, he also uses almost no metaphors. On the surface totally bare, the power of the poetry derives from the cadences of the language, the profound, but humorous, melancholy the poetry creates. I have an entire book of Veli translations, I, Orhan Veli (Hanging Loose Press, 1989). In its preface, I do discuss the challenges of translating Veli's poetry into the rigid syntactical structure of English.
Couch: Would you apply your idea of a meta-language (a third term between source and target languages, or a style created by translation) to Cavafy translation? If so, what should we look for to glimpse it in the English of the translations? How does Cavafy's work specifically challenge contemporary Englishes?
Nemet-Nejat: I would. In my response to the previous question, I partly described how. The meta-language is basically a synthesis of source and target languages, a third space very close to Walter Benjamin's “ideal language” where the intentio of both languages come together. In this synthesis both languages change in the light of each other. I discuss this in my short essay “Ideas Towards a Theory of Translation in Eda.”
Couch: Cavafy’s family origins were in Constantinople and he spent three years of his youth there, and while he ultimately repudiated several of his poems of “Byzantinism,” a number of his historical poems treat hellenized Asia Minor and especially the decline of those civilizations. Do you have any observations on Constantinople/Byzantium/Istanbul as a presence or influence in Cavafy’s work, and/or any useful comparisons about its aura or shadow in Turkish poetry and Cavafy’s?
Nemet-Nejat: Culturally, I would put Cavafy within the Levantine tradition, Levantine being those lands and their populations, mostly but not necessarily around the Mediterranean—Greeks, Romanians, Jews, Armenians, some Africans, etc.—under the domination of the Ottoman Empire during the latter's declining years from the 18th century onward.
Both as a Greek and a homosexual, Cavafy was an outsider; that is I think where his melancholy comes from. He is a quintessential “minor poet” in Deleuze’s sense of the word, and there lies his profound connection in “aura” or “shadow” to modern Turkish poetry and eda. Turkish poetry represents the greatest and richest body of minor poetry, in the Deleuzean sense, in the 20th century, a subversive poetry of the outsider. The theme of homosexuality is at the heart of eda, which is in latent but still present form in its early years, and rises more and more to the surface. In that sense, the persistently developing theme of eda in the 20th century is one of psychic liberation.
I think both Auden’s and Forster’s attraction to Cavafy is due to his open treatment of his homosexuality.
Couch: Cavafy spent seven years, from age nine to sixteen, in England, wrote his first verses in English and reportedly spoke Greek with an English accent until he died. He had a substantial familiarity with the English poetic tradition. He was employed most of his adult life in the Anglo-Egyptian bureaucracy of the Ministry of Public Works. Apart from (or including, if you like) the thematics of imperialism, colonialism, and exile in many of the poems, do you have any thoughts on the effect of linguistic and cultural “double vision” on his poetry? Might it have an effect on the translatability of the poems into English?
Nemet-Nejat: In relation to this issue I think the most revealing writer to compare Cavafy to is Jabès. Jabès, who is also basically a Levantine writer/poet, chose to identify himself with the centrality of the French culture, leaving behind, essentially erasing, the Arabic culture in which he lived for forty years. Cavafy identified himself with his Levantine world (writing in Greek) and, what is crucial, took a confrontational stance (that of a “minor poet”) in relation to the cultural center. My essay "Questions of Accent," first published in The Exquisite Corpse in 1993, starts with a critique of Jabès as a Jewish Levantine writer. When first published, it caused a great deal of controversy.
The center of Cavafy's poetry, at least to me, is an erotically infused psychic isolation, the almost ecstatic melancholy of itinerant aloneness. Modern Turkish poetry also registers the victim’s, the outsider’s point of view though, because of its more directly Sufi connections, the ecstatic side of this melancholy—an ecstasy achieved through tears and suffering—has a more prominent place. (Gayness also, its gradual coming to the surface—is key to the reading of modern Turkish poetry.)
Not knowing Greek, my suggestions about translating Cavafy into English will necessarily be circumspect and subjective. I think there are two key points in translating him into English. One is the scarcity of metaphors. The translator should be very careful NOT to translate what is non-metaphorical in Cavafy’s language into metaphorical poetry. Second, the tonal modulations of Cavafy’s language—particularly derived from the agglutinative nature of Greek syntax, as in Turkish—must be preserved. The result, as I understand Cavafy, is a very subtle poetry of lists, actions, and thoughts—a private encyclopedia of psychic moments.
Economou: I can’t say that the introductions by Auden (a poet for whom I have the deepest respect) and Stern of translations by Rae Dalven and Aliki Barnstone have ever given me much food for thought. I’m interested in conveying Cavafy’s humanity, his sensibility, his intellect, and, I would add here, his unique historian’s perspective—a vision that deals specifically with the difficulties that the artist experiences, most notably with the problem of the effects of time upon the artist’s ability to memorialize in his work a person or experience, invariably recalled for their erotic significance, for which he cares profoundly. My 1981 review article “Eros, Memory, and Art” on Cavafy in The American Poetry Review, parts of which I have revised for the introduction in the Shearsman book, explores his unique perspective on the human condition through the trifocal lens of eros, memory, and art.
One of the first things that struck me as a young man when I began reading Cavafy in Athens was that Cavafy’s language seemed to be somehow different from the language of the other modern Greek poets I had begun to study on my own before making that trip: Greek like their Greek, yet in some instances and ways undoubtedly a different Greek. Specifically, the experience of reading Cavafy differed notably, if not distractingly, from that of reading Odysseus Elytis and Nikos Gatsos, favorite poets of mine who were to become sort of unofficial poet mentors, along with my uncle, during my six-month sojourn in Greece. Let me emphasize that the difference of which I speak was linguistic and not one born of an obvious and definitive difference of poetic predilection or literary tradition, Gatsos and Elytis having entered the scene among the earliest Greek surrealists. The main source of this difference in the way I had been receiving Cavafy’s language sits in the middle of one of the most important chapters in the history of the Modern Greek language. I was to learn that Gatsos and Elytis wrote predominately in demotic Greek, dimotiki, the kind of Greek that reflects the continuity of the common speech of the Greek people over the centuries and which ultimately competed strenuously with the purist, written form of Greek, known as katharevousa, which, contrary to the argument that it had been constructed as a means to strengthen the ruling class, had been in use and evolving with some changes for centuries.
At the risk of oversimplifying this complex history, aspects of which persist in various forms to this day, the supporters of the demotic did battle during the previous century with those of the purist for the honor of expressing the literary voice of mainland Greece; the language of the people, the dimos, won out over that of the government, church and officialdom in general. But this was not necessarily the case for Greeks everywhere, especially for those, like Cavafy, of the long enduring Greek diaspora, though some of them may have been aware of the issue. Essentially, Cavafy wrote and reads differently from poets like Elytis and Gatsos, even if we take into account that he was born about forty years earlier and died when they were young men just starting their careers, because he was born in Constantinople, raised there and in England, and lived most of his adult life in Alexandria, which is to say he belonged to a class and culture within the Greek diaspora known for its cosmopolitan and sophisticated character and a predominately formal Greek, whose speakers did not feel compelled to make a strong distinction between its elements from the dimotiki and katharevousa. This was the Greek out of which Cavafy made his splendid life’s work of poetry, and while the long view of his career shows him generally more dependent on the purist element in its earlier stages and moving more and more towards the demotic as he matures, it remains the base of his beloved Greek, his devotion to which in fact transcends all periods and geographic provenances. It also doesn’t hurt to recognize that he was quite apolitical when it came to the great Greek language controversy and to listen carefully for the implications of a remark he was reported to have made about it in which he complained that “the two sides aimed to throw away half of our language.”
It is part of the task of every translator of Cavafy’s poetry to come to terms with his poetic diction. When they discuss the subject, and not all of them do, some translators choose to emphasize a sharply contrastive, even jarring effect that comes from Cavafy’s juxtaposing, or simply just using, words from the purist and demotic traditions within the same poem. In 1978, Kimon Friar, viewed by many as the dean of translators of Modern Greek poetry, wrote: “In order to transfer into English Cavafis’s play between demotic and formal Greek words taken from the long historical development of the Greek language, the translator, I contend, should use an Anglo Saxon base (for his “demotic”) and play it off against polysyllabic words, as in Milton, derived from Greek or Latin (for his “purist” words).” Some translators have taken a similar approach, including Daniel Mendelsohn, while numerous others either do not perceive or explicitly articulate this challenge in the first place, and others acknowledge the issue but prefer not to address it specifically in their translations, believing it puts the English translator in an untenable and ultimately unrewarding position. I should add that this suppositional question of tension in the lexical texture of Cavafy’s poetry is quite different from the clear-cut one with which we are confronted by the citations, mostly within the historical poems, in the Greek from various periods and authors, such as Plutarch, one of the poet’s favorite authorities. My response to this matter has been simply to translate the citation, especially when it’s in the form of an epigraph, into idiomatic modern English.
When I approach translating Cavafy, I do not especially focus on his language as one in which katharevousa and dimotiki appear in high relief to each other, much less as competitive lexicons, nor do I worry about reflecting this so-called problem in the language of my translations. Certainly the Anglo-Saxon and Latinate components of our lexicon do not accurately reflect the condition of his Greek or provide parallels that survive the tests of everyday usage and comparative linguistic and literary history. (Some Greek poets, like Sikelianos and Kazantzakis for example, invented a dimotiki so strange at times it was as little spoken by Greeks as was pure katharevousa.) Indeed, translations that try to attend to or impose (I will not say preserve) this dichotomy turn out to be stilted and overwrought. My personal experience, as reader or writer, has been that this concern does not enhance the text of the translation.
Couch: Another factor contributing to Cavafy’s poetic attitude or sensibility is the characteristic way he positions the controlling intelligence of the poem (whether a speaker or an authorial narrator) in relation to the events depicted and to the reader. Unlike the texture of his Greek, this set of rhetorical relationships can usually be reproduced in English. It’s a commonplace that his historical poems often depend for their effect on dramatic irony; the speaker, the poet, or a character in the poem knows something that the other characters don’t, and that knowledge undercuts or inverts the significance of the principal action or pronouncement represented. In these poems Cavafy doesn’t spell out the crucial fact—say, the date of the battle that is about to bring a Hellenistic kingdom under the domination of Rome—but rather assumes that the reader is in the know. Treating the reader truly as un frère, un semblable in this way sanctions the poet’s laconic and understated descriptions; there’s no need to paint in lurid colors. Such rhetorical positioning creates a sense of intimacy with—and in—the reader at the same time it distances both poet and reader from the events treated.
Even in the first-person erotic poems a similar positioning operates. Cavafy posits not just a sympathy on the part of the reader but a fully developed capacity to understand and share in the retrospective delectation of his (homosexual) desire and its consummation. He never explains or persuades, and seldom even gives a fully rounded portrait of the young man who is the object of desire. A glimpse is sufficient; all is hint and metonym. That’s enough for the trusted reader-twin at the poet’s elbow. In these poems it’s time that gives the sense of distance—the interval of recollection. Cavafy seldom immerses the reader in a vivid present-tense scene; indeed the paucity of physical descriptions in his poetry has led some critics to contend that he has no appreciation of visual beauty. All the intensity of emotion is invested in the act of remembering. Once the memory is triggered, the poet counts on the reader to respond in kind, identifying with his philosophical valorization of sensual experience and his sadness at its mutability and loss.
The extraordinary degree of trust that Cavafy imputes to readers through his rhetorical positioning has been rewarded by reciprocal loyalty on the part of many. It may be that the sensory charms of the verbal structures in the original language—which include quantitative metrical effects, assonance, often rhyme, and the lexical texture George Economou discusses above—counterbalance the directness of their rhetorical strategy: George Seferis, who was not generally a great admirer of Cavafy, claimed that one of Cavafy’s poems is the most beautiful in the Greek language. So perhaps the Cavafy magic that can be translated is partial; but that already is a great deal.
Dmitri Prigov's Little Coffins
The tension between the book as individual copy and as mass reproduced object is reframed and even collapsed in samizdat literature, the illegally copied and circulated typescripts that created an entire world of literary and intellectual life in the late-Soviet period. Samizdat texts were reproduced, four or five copies at a time through the act of retyping and the use of carbon copy. In these works, the acts of writing, copying, and publishing effectively fuse.
Beginning in the 1970s, conceptual writer and artist Dmitri Prigov sought to investigate the relationship between text and copy in laboriously reproduced samizdat texts, which in spite — in fact because — of their poor quality became fetishized objects for members of the Soviet samizdat community. Prigov exploited the nature of the samizdat text to produce singular works in which the materiality of the book plays a key role. At the same time, he stressed the relationship between the writer and copyist, between unique work and reproduction in samizdat book culture.
A good example of this can be found in Prigov’s Grobiki otrinutykh stikhov or Little Coffins of Rejected Verse (about which I have written more extensively in A Common Strangeness). The Little Coffins comprise a numbered series of paper packages stapled on all sides that contain Prigov’s “rejected verse,” either on a whole sheet of paper or in confetti-like strips. The packages, with their hand-typed covers, resemble samizdat books. Numbering in their thousands, Prigov’s Little Coffins parody the exuberant textual excessiveness of samizdat culture—the “graphomania” that Prigov celebrates and parodies in his own vast poetic output (he aimed to produce 24,000 poems by the year 2000, one for each month of the two millennia). Yet the package-books are sealed and coffin-like, suggesting the burial of Russian culture in samizdat under the system of Soviet censorship that condemned many texts to the death of nonpublication.
While satirizing and celebrating Soviet samizdat culture, the Little Coffins gained new currency in the late-Soviet moment when the conduits of exchange between Russian and Western contemporary art and literature broadened. They came to stand for the burial of Soviet culture as a result of the liberalization of publishing. They also represented Prigov’s own rebuilding (perestroika) and rearticulation of that culture through works that appealed to the exchange value not of words on the page, but of contemporary art operating within a globalized market system.
During his 1989 trip to Leningrad, Prigov gave Michael Davidson a Little Coffin, which Davidson went on to cite as one of a number of “signs of community, in many cases, among total strangers” that he found in Russia. Davidson here expressed the dream that a transnational poetic collectivity might unite East and West under the utopian signs of Russian modernism. But as Davidson also wryly noted, Prigov’s calling card was “written in roman characters, as though for Western export.” Seen in this light, the Little Coffins are the ultimate globally marketable local product for a poet whose work would otherwise be limited to a Russian audience, since one cannot—and in fact must not—read them.
The Little Coffins suggest a parallel between the subsuming of local particularities in a new global system and the negation of authorial agency. As with much of Prigov’s work—and many recent English-language conceptual texts—they are characterized by a template structure that can produce a potentially endless volume of material. These serial conceptual writings highlight the comprehensiveness of structures or systems imposed by theoretical thinking, suggesting a totalizing treatment of linguistic material that seems to reduce the author to a cog in the linguistic machine. The sealed packages underscore the apparent death of the author by condemning the poet’s words to the graves or coffins of the work’s conceptual design, and sealing the local, belated poetic product within the globally marketable packaging of contemporary art.
But positioned between Soviet samizdat culture and the international art market, the Little Coffins stand at the intersection of multiple systems of iteration and so offer another possibility. In their very undead form and parasitic relation to their “deceased” verse, the Little Coffins evoke Walter Benjamin’s concept of “afterlife” or Nachleben. Conforming to this concept, the post-Soviet afterlife of the Little Coffins interrupts the given, by stressing the continuous reworking of historical understanding at a moment of historical, social, and geopolitical change. The Little Coffins come to be read as addressing globalization, reframing their earlier examination of the fetishized samizdat text as a figure for the fragility of human life, the obsession with the poet’s or artist’s every word, and the figurative and literal death of the poet within the Russian literary tradition. The buried samizdat poem outlives the samizdat text in the post-Soviet era by becoming a kind of calling card for Prigov’s position at the juncture of late-Soviet dissident culture, Soviet ideology, post-Soviet Russian nationalism, and the global art market. Though closed forever, Prigov’s sealed books are open to ongoing iterations.
I wish to suggest a rather subtle shift
in the way we think about our trips,
and indeed, our experience in general.
Of course one can and often does
simply become lost in the colors of the phenomena
that produce themselves for us.
But equally frequently, for many of us,
the trip is fraught with ontological issues.
The matter of the reality of what is going on
and what we are experiencing:
the reality and nature of the entities we encounter;
the nature and reality of the apparent narratives we are the part of.
We seem both poorly equipped
and inescapably compelled
to negotiate the ontological terrain;
and more than that,
the way we dispose ourselves ontologically —
that is, the way we are disposed to understand what is real —
seems to condition what occurs
and what we experience.
Ontology is performative
quite in the magical sense of the term:
what we take to be
is a project or performance
of what we do with our minds
or what our minds do with us.
Motto: Being is One ; ontologies are many.
Many because our cultures are many
and all cultures come equipped
with their own spectrum of ontological possibilities —
their range of ways
Many because we ourselves come equipped
with a range of ontological possibilities:
ways in which we are each prepared to receive, acknowledge,
and indeed invent
what comes to seem to be.
And it is as if every trip were overwritten by its own ontology.
So instead of asking —
when the little beings appear within our ken;
when the phenomenal field breaks open
and hyper-dimensionalities devolve upon us;
instead of asking :
was it real?
what is happening? —
as if we were cognitively equipped before, or after, or during the experience
to adjudicate the reality
of that which our judgments themselves
are at least in part determining —
instead of asking what is real?, what is happening?
perhaps our inquiry should be more like:
what is the operant ontology of this trip?
what is (or was)
the concept that remains constant
while the trip flashes along!
Not what is real —
these beings we encounter,
these phenomena that befall us —
this thing that it feels like we become —
given that we meet entities
with such and such characteristics,
things to communicate —
given that we experienced such and such phenomena —
what would the over-riding conception of Being have to be —
for such things to occur?
One might feel that during some trips
one enters a territory where no such question applies,
where Creeley is wrong,
that no such concept overrides.
But that itself should be a question.
If conceptions in the ordinary sense no longer apply,
does Being disposes itself in some other mode?
And how can that mode and its variations be dealt with?
Is there an intelligence,
before or after or during the fact,
that exceeds the conceptual
but remains ontological?
Or does the matter of Being itself
dissolve with the concepts
that I want to say
through the covering
of concepts, images, intuitions,
that tells us not only what things are
but what Being itself
In any case,
such a shift in ontological frame —
from "what is it?" to
"what must being be like
for it to seem to be? —
might be applied as preparation,
invoked along the way,
or worked on after the fact.
And the result would not be at all
that such an inquiry would answer
in a unique way the question of the nature of Being in general;
but rather to add to the repertoire of possible ontologies.
For Being itself would not be given by any of its coverings;
but rather be taken
as that which allows such coverings to occur.
We would be providing ourselves
with the grandest of magical implements.
For in our time
magic is no longer the subject of,
as a famous magical theorist proposed it —
the transformation of reality according to will —
technology has pretty well proven itself competent to handle that —
but rather the production of coverings
for being itself.
The magical will does not manipulate material things and circumstances,
but goes directly to the matter itself,
and manifests transformations
in the covering of Being.
The point would be
to open ourselves ontologically,
to expand our ontological repertoires,
to open for ourselves and our time
something like a new age in which Being itself
were no longer determined by a narrow repertoire of conceptual possibilities,
but become in fact unlimited, infinite, actually:
for Though Being may be One —
it is never the case that any one ontology —
or even any one assemblage of ontologies —
can truthfully Cover What Is.
Once the matter of ontology
has been thoroughly transposed in this matter,
I propose three or four categories
for dealing with what occurs
that become open to one's disposition
or one might say dispossession
The Real and The Unreal
Under the disposition of the Real and the Unreal,
one is disposed
to wonder whether what one is undergoing
is real as it presents itself or illusion.
The common state of things.
One remembers Casteneda's quandary in the first of the Don Juan books,
in which he is made to experience himself as a flying crow.
The quandary that haunts him
and continues to haunt
through many volumes:
did I really fly Don Juan?
Casteneda is under the ontological disposition —
possessed one might say —
by common consensus and its contradiction—
of the ontological conception : Real and Un Real.
Under the disposition of the Surreal,
one system of reality — one ontology
is simply replaced for another.
Other dimensions disclose themselves.
The door in space has opened.
You are inside the mountain, inside the stone.
You encounter counter-dimensional entities.
The powers of cosmic vegetables are made manifest.
Mushrooms dance between your fingers
with an indissociable sentience and vitality.
Another ontology than the one that possesses you under common consensus is accepted, at least for the duration of the trip, or the part of the trip.
The final category.
This is a word that people occasionally deploy
when they want to step outside of the conundrum of reality —
either to affirm or deny or replace it.
Here one doesn't propose reality at all.
Another system of apparencies crops up and one goes along with it.
Not in the mode of the "as if" —
not that one is holding onto a firm grip of one's quotidian sense of being
while teasing oneself with principles and possibilities
beyond the common zone of things — quite the contrary.
That firm grip has long slipped away.
And not as if one were asserting,
with what one might hear as the aggression of the surrealist
an alternative reality
or demanding of oneself that one accept an alternative sense of reality —
but that one has dropped ontological pretension altogether.
That which comes to appearance — is simply that.
Here it is.
It has stepped aside from the matter of ontology altogether.
Now this latter possibility is extraordinarily interesting,
because it might be quite impossible.
Creeley's conception that overrides it
might be lurking in the wings or behind the scene,
determining all sorts of things about what appears in this domain.
And it just might be the case that the very structure of apparency
brings along with it
the assertion of being for what appears.
That would be the question.
But there is a kind of stance —
not unlike the pataphysical
side-stepping or side-swiping of the pretensions of the real altogether —
and it would be from the position of this stance
that the matter of ontology itself might be cogently put under investigation.
Is it possible to side-step the question of reality
in order to uncover a mode of apparency
that is so thoroughly creative
that the matter of Being does not arrive at all?
Well, it's a thought.
...some poems, reviews, interviews, photos and articles, 1997 to 2010
John Tranter founded this magazine in 1997. In 2010 he granted it to the University of Pennsylvania. Among the thousands of poems, reviews, interviews, photographs and articles by other creative artists published in «Jacket» magazine, his own work has made an appearance from time to time. This is a listing of that work, from «Jacket» 1 in 1997, to the final «Jacket» issue, 40, in 2010.
[»»] John Tranter reviews John Berger’s «Photocopies»: “IT’S SIMPLIFYING THINGS to call John Berger a Eurocentric left-wing analyst of art and culture, but I’m going to do it.”
Red Tree, Tasmania; photo John Tranter 1997
[»»] Photo: John Ashbery wearing a «Jacket»: by John Tranter (R77-8)
[»»] John Tranter: Interview with John Ashbery, April 1985: “I’ve never really cared for ‘Self-Portrait’ very much, and I must say I didn’t like it any more when I reread it. But I obviously had to put it in because people would expect it to be there.”
[»»] John Tranter: Interview with John Ashbery, May 1988: “It seemed to me that my [first] book had fallen into a bottomless pit, and that I would never have another chance to publish another book of poems.”
[»»] John Tranter: «Three John Ashberys: An Introduction»
[»»] John Tranter: «Lost Things in the Garden of Type»
Poem: [»»] John Tranter: "God on a Bicycle" (for John Forbes)
[»»] John Tranter reviews John Forbes’s posthumous collection «Damaged Glamour»
[»»] John Tranter reviews «Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa» by Charles Nicholl
[»»] John Tranter: "Thank God for the Bourgeoisie"
Experimental Prose: [»»] «Mr Rubenking’s "Breakdown"» — computers and writing (with a RealAudio recording of robot poet Joy H.Breshan reading a computer-generated poem)
[»»] John Tranter — Carousel
[»»] John Tranter: «Very Rapid Acceleration» -- Interview with Kenneth Koch, New York City, 1989
[»»] Photo: Zinc Bar, New York City, October 1999, photo by John Tranter
[»»] Photo of «New American Writing» Editor Paul Hoover, New York City, 1991, photo by John Tranter
Prose poem: [»»] John Tranter: In Paris
Photo: Kenneth Koch, NYC, 1989, photo by John Tranter
[»»] John Tranter: "Three Poems About Kenneth Koch"
[»»] A sampler of writing selected by «Jacket» editor John Tranter from the 630-page Granary Books anthology of material from the collection of Angel Hair magazine and books edited by Lewis Warsh and Anne Waldman between 1966 and 1978.
[»»] John Tranter interviews Chris Emery, of Salt Publications
[»»] Photo: John Ashbery, photo by John Tranter
[»»] John Ashbery and John Kinsella and John Tranter (and Ern Malley): The Ern Malley poems
[»»] The court typist’s transcript, in full, of the trial of Max Harris, an editor of Angry Penguins magazine, for the offence of publishing indecent advertisements. The trial was held in the Adelaide Police Court, South Australia, in September 1944. Mr Harris was convicted of the offence and fined. The original has 74 typed pages. Edited by John Tranter in 2005, with emendations and notes.
[»»] Photo: Schuldt, Berlin, 2001, photo by John Tranter.
Marjorie Perloff reviews: [»»] John Tranter and Paul Hoover
[»»] Karlein van den Beukel, Rotterdam, 2005, photo by John Tranter
[»»] The United States Poet Laureate — some Background, with an Adumbration of a Brace of Controversies, and a List of the Consultants in Poetry from 1937 to 2002.
[»»] Photo: Bruce Andrews, New York, photo by John Tranter
[»»] David Shapiro (in conversation with John Tranter, 1984)
[»»] Photo: Carl Rakosi, San Francisco, March 1989, photo by John Tranter
Robert Duncan, May 1985, photo by John Tranter [photo, right]
[»»] Robert Duncan in conversation with John Tranter, San Francisco, 1985
[»»] «Robert Duncan: A metaphysical quotient» — Michael Davidson in conversation with John Tranter, recorded in 1989, with a postscript, 2005
[»»] Anne Waldman, Berlin 2002, photo: John Tranter
Photo: John Tranter and Pam Brown, Berlin, 2001; Photo by Jane Zemiro
[»»] Michael Brennan: Last words: Tranter and Rimbaud’s silence.
[»»] Kate Fagan and Peter Minter: «Murdering Alphabets, Disorienting Romance: John Tranter and Postmodern Australian Poetics»
Poem: [»»] John Tranter: "By Blue Ontario’s Shore"
[»»] John Tranter: "Desmond’s Coupé": A partly homophonic mistranslation into English of ‘Un coup de dés’, using a nice, sensible even left margin.
[»»] John Tranter: a review of «Musicopoematographoscope», by Australian poet Christopher Brennan, a manuscript parody of ‘Un coup de dés’ written in Colonial Sydney within a few months of Mallarmé’s poem being published in the May 1897 issue of the Paris journal «Cosmopolis».
[»»] Poems «Altered State — The New Polish Poetry». Edited by Rod Mengham, Tadeusz Pióro and Piotr Szymor. Todmorden, UK: Arc Publications, 2003. Price: £10.95. This selection was chosen by Rod Mengham and John Tranter.
[»»] John Tranter: "Dan Dactyl and the Mad Jungle Doctor": A 95-frame black and white comic strip that traces the adventures of adventurer Dan Dactyl and his pals as they search the South American jungles for the mysterious French poet Doctor Verlaine. First published in «Chain» (US), «Poetry Review» (London) and «Southerly» magazine (Sydney).
Poem: [»»] John Tranter: Girl in Water
Graphic (Rimbaud, right) by John Tranter
[»»] Photo: Jackson Mac Low, 1997, photo John Tranter
[»»] Photo: Slant Fence, Blackheath, NSW, December 2007, photo by John Tranter
[»»] John Tranter: Two Poems: "Derek Walcott’s Lips"; and
"Craig Raine’s Arsehole: variations on a theme by Helen Farish"
[»»] Banjo Paterson: "The Man From Snowy River"; John Tranter: "Snowy"
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