Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An interview with John Tranter

We interview John Tranter about editing The Best Australian Poems 2012.

What was the selection process like for The Best Australians Poems 2012?

Pretty much like last year: I sorted through the thousand or so entries that Black Inc. sent to me, and chose what I felt were the best: that is, the most interesting, or well written, or dramatic, or thought-provoking poems that I felt a general audience would like. I had to trust my own taste to steer away from poems with a minority appeal. I would hope that as the series develops, the admissions rules will be relaxed: at present, admissions are limited to poems published exactly in the last year. I'd like to see that extended to simply 'recent poems', anything up to a few years old. That way next year's editor - a new and different editor - could publish a poem or two that I may have overlooked from 2011-2012. And I feel sure that there will be more women editors in future years.  It has been pretty much a male thing so far. But that will change. It's a great project, and I feel optimistic about it. The fact that it's open to absolutely everybody, and that the editors regularly change, makes it widely democratic, and perhaps that's why it is so popular.

Do you have any favourites among the poems in this year's collection?

I think they each have something special to say. Readers will find their own favourites, and no reader should feel bullied into privileging one kind of writing over another. But I do have a few personal likes: Alan Wearne's insightful portrait of a marriage gone wrong, in 'Anger Management: a South Coast Fable'; Craig Powell's poignant look at the life and death of his wife in 'Wedding Night'; Peter Murphy's brief poem about a dead dog, 'Gardening', which is funny at first and becomes sad when you think about it; and a light but very moving poem I wish I had written, 'My Town' by Meg Mooney, a poet I had never heard of before. That's odd: until I had written out this list I had not been aware that sad poems affect me so much. Don't worry: there are plenty of funny and happy poems in the book!

What do you hope people take away with them after reading this collection?

A sense of fun, exhilaration and surprise; an appreciation of the vigour and variety of life in this country; a feeling that the gift of poetry is widely spread among all kinds of Australians; a delight in sharing some deeply personal insights; a sense of delight that so many strange and wonderful things have been noticed and reflected upon and shared with us all.

What are your top five tips for aspiring poets?

Read voraciously as widely as you can; write and rewrite a lot; don't take any notice of fads or fashions or what other people say and just write out what interests you personally; take careful notice of fads and fashions and what other people say and write in as many different forms and tones of voice as you can imagine; and publish, publish, publish.

The Best Australian Poems 2012 edited by John Tranter is available now in print and ebook.

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