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Urban Myths collects a wide range of John Tranter’s best writing from a forty-year career together with a generous selection of recent poems. His work is noted for its technical virtuosity and masterful handling of traditional forms in a modern context including sonnets, haibun, haiku, odes, elegy, and Sapphics. There are poems like snapshots, a few lines long, and a film noir story that runs for over thirty pages. There are flashes of lyrical beauty and desperate adventures, fear and loathing in America and a quiet drink in a waterfront bar in ancient Alexandria.
Many of Tranter’s poems engage with literary exemplars – Callimachus, Shakespeare, Schiller, Hölderlin, Rimbaud, Sartre, O’Hara – and hold up their attitudes and procedures to a sharp contemporary scrutiny.
Alongside his more approachable narrative, lyric and critical work John Tranter has persistently explored a project of experimentation, interrogating the traffic between speech, writing and meaning, and challenging the preconceptions of the reader. In one example, Shakespeare’s The Tempest is reduced to a dozen pages; in another, a gaggle of literary figures have their work shredded in a computer only to see it reborn in a fresh guise.
For all its delight in scholarship and the ironies of history, this writing is focussed on the hopes, dreams, fears and desires of the here and now.
‘Tranter has produced a body of work remarkable for its intellectual vitality, formal versatility, and powers of renewal over a long and formidable career.’ —Peter Pierce, The Melbourne Age
‘This new and selected poems reminds us, if we needed reminding, just how powerful John Tranter’s cumulated work is. There is a density, an intensity, and a many-sided explorativeness that probably cannot be matched in Australian poetry.’ —Martin Duwell, Australian Book Review
‘He is a canny operator, embracing modernism, and postmodernism, but somehow coming adroitly through to the other side...’ —Roger Caldwell, PN Review 157