John Tranter

Literary humor from the editors of 'Jacket'

What is a “Linopentametron”? Is it truly possible to scientifically render a poem “impervious to attack by even the most powerful critical tools”? What, exactly, happened between Sappho of Lesbos and Tod? 

What is a “Linopentametron”? Is it truly possible to scientifically render a poem “impervious to attack by even the most powerful critical tools”? What, exactly, happened between Sappho of Lesbos and Tod? Founding editor John Tranter is likely the mind responsible for the comedic snapshots of literary “history” in several of Jacket’s earlier issues.

Perhaps a new optimism (PoemTalk #68)

Ray DiPalma, 'It makes / of nonsense'


Aaron Shurin (then just in from the Bay Area), John Tranter (visiting from Australia), and Charles Bernstein (coming in from New York) joined Al Filreis for this episode of PoemTalk to discuss a poem by Ray DiPalma, “It makes of nonsense.” The poem was written in 1976, and first performed, we think, in 1977. Our text of the poem comes from the poet, and is reproduced below. Our PennSound recording of the poem was segmented from a longer tape of a reading DiPalma gave, along with Michael Lally and Bruce Andrews (quite a threesome in those years), at the Ear Inn in New York City on November 10, 1977; the tape-recording itself was made by the aforementioned Charles Bernstein, one of this episode’s interlocutors.

John Tranter in Philadelphia


John Tranter recently visited the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia. He participated in the recording of an episode of PoemTalk (about a poem by Ray DiPalma — to be released later), and then took time to record a conversation with Al Filreis about the founding of Jacket and various related topics.

Tranter in Jacket

...some poems, reviews, interviews, photos and articles, 1997 to 2010

John Tranter, 2011, photo by Sean Hartnett
John Tranter, 2011, photo by Sean Hartnett

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.

«Jacket» 01:
[»»] 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.”

Australian poet Martin Johnston, 1947-90

Twelve pieces, in Jacket 1 and Jacket 11

Martin Johnston and his wife Roseanne Bonney. Photo by John Tranter.
Martin Johnston and his wife Roseanne Bonney. Photo by John Tranter.

A note from John Tranter: The Australian poet Martin Johnston was one of a generation of poets who invigorated Australian poetry in the late 1960s and 1970s. His contribution was unusual: he had a European upbringing, having spent fourteen years of his childhood abroad, in England and Greece. Martin died in June 1990 at the age of forty-two. Over the next two years I compiled a selection of most of his published poetry, essays and book reviews together with some interviews and photographs, and Martin Johnston — Selected Poems and Prose was published by the University of Queensland Press in 1993. A large number of Martin’s poems and prose writings are available in Jacket 1, together with some photographs, and another large tranche in Jacket 11, all linked to from the items below.

In Jacket 01:
The main part of my Introduction to the Selected Poems and Prose
A group of sonnets, In Transit — a Sonnet Square
An essay on Jorge Luis Borges

John Forbes

A feature in Jacket 3

John Forbes, Petersham, Sydney, 1980, photo (c) John Tranter
John Forbes, Petersham, Sydney, 1980, photo (c) John Tranter

Jacket 3, April 1998, is dedicated to the memory of the recently-dead Australian poet John Forbes. Born in 1950, John Forbes suffered a heart attack and died suddenly at his home in Melbourne on 23 January 1998. He was forty-seven.
He was a subtle, ironic and brilliant poet, wholly dedicated to his art. In this issue: some poems by John, some photos, Gig Ryan’s eulogy, a review of his last book, and some poems by his friends.  — J.T.
John Forbes — five poems:
— ‘Speed, A Pastoral
3 recent poems from Damaged Glamour
poem: ‘Dean Martin’s definition of happiness’
Gig Ryan — i.m. John Forbes (with ‘Love Poem’ by John Forbes)

Ken Bolton — ‘(Two Portraits)’
Carl Harrison-Ford on John Forbes and his last book of poems
Rae D.Jones, ‘grim reaper blues’
John Kinsella, ‘The Dam Busters’
Nigel Roberts, ‘Dialogue with John Forbes’
Tracy Ryan, poem

Jacket 39: Rewriting Australia feature

40 printed pages: edited by Pam Brown

Australia pin
Australia pin

Pam Brown's recent gigantic feature for Jacket2 titled "51 Contemporary Poets from Australia" had a ghostly foreshadowing a year or so ago, in Pam's "Rewriting Australia" feature in Jacket 39, where some Australian poets wrestle with their poetic forebears. Banjo Paterson shows up as a punching bag several times, perhaps because he is an old, dead, conservative white male with his portrait on the Australian ten dollar bill.

[»»] Pam Brown: Rewriting Canonical Australian Poems: Introduction
[»»] David Brooks: Cracks in the Fray: Re-reading ‘The Man From Snowy River’
[»»] Justin Clemens: Dürer: Innsbruck 1495
[»»] Michael Farrell: the king
[»»] Michael Farrell: Anti-Clockwise Judith Wright: A ‘Widdershins’ Reading of ‘Bullocky’
[»»] Duncan Hose: Blue Hill 404
[»»] Banjo Paterson: The Man From Snowy River; John Tranter: Snowy
[»»] David Prater: Three poems: Red Dawn Ward / Oz / “The Campfires of the Lost”

CB: Cryptic chill

From all accounts, Christopher Brennan (1870 - 1932) was an unusal Australian poet. This in two senses: he was an unusual poet and scholar, and he was unusually "Australian". Unlike a good slab of his contemporaries, Brennan was not at all interested in contributing to a national colonial poetic. He once said in an interview that he may as well have written from China, so unimportant was place and national identity in his work. His interest in the French Symbolists, especially Mallarmé, has been well documented, but even where that longterm engagement is concerned, Brennan never imagined he was a Symbolist. His way of describing his aesthetic affinities was to say simply that one must live in one's time, and must find others to get along with. The Symbolists happened to be those closest to his own conceit.

Nevertheless, he was utterly committed to a thoroughly European poetics. Some of his manuscripts are collected at the State Library of NSW, and when I looked through a box of his materials, I found extensive lecture notes, poems, lists, essays, criticism and correspondence in Latin, Greek, French and German.

Jacket2 featured in "Pennsylvania Gazette"

Recently the Pennsylvania Gazette ran a short article about the move of Jacket from John Tranter's editorship to our new arrangement based here at Penn. Here is a PDF copy of the piece.


"off the wall"

Screenshot of article about Jacket2 in the "Daily Pennsylvanian"

“[John] Tranter broke new ground in terms of serious criticism of poetry being spread all over the world,” [new editor Mike] Hennessey said.

Media Editor Steve McLauglin, a 2008 [Univ. of Pennsylvania] alumnus, is going on a two month bus trip this summer with his audio recorder to record poetry readings from all across the United States to use as podcasts for Jacket2.

“This project is an example of the kind of thing that doesn’t happen very often. Off-the-wall stuff happens at the Writers House,” McLaughlin said.

According to Charles Bernstein, American poet and Penn English professor, “the Web is the quickest and economically most efficient way to get poetry out there.”

Jacket is one of the most appealing and best edited of literary magazines that exists,” Bernstein said.


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