Q & A: John Tranter

This poem strikes me as a sort of “Kafka meets Homeland Security.” Could you say more about the mood of the poem?

I like that: the gloomy European depth of Kafka versus the shallow, bland-as-apple-pie Homeland Security. I think the poem reflects our present-day society, where politicians and civic authorities are routinely bribed and bought by the rich and crooked. The poem’s concerns also circle around an argument about the nature of art: if “the narrative grows out of/market research,” where’s the place for artistic inspiration? Must the artist always be vulnerable to being pushed aside by manipulative phonies? Movies used to be great once: or so we feel. But now, movies are shaped and reshaped until they satisfy a focus group or a test audience. Ugh! Is this a vision of art ground down on the whetstone of commerce, or of the lowest common denominator dictating artistic taste? 


Who’s the “Sorehead”?

Believe it or not, nineteen-year-old Arthur Rimbaud. The title was inspired by the poem’s “original” French source: Rimbaud’s “Matinée d’ivresse” or “Morning of Drunkenness.” Well, he would have a sore head, wouldn’t he, depending on how much absinthe he had imbibed?


This poem originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2010

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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