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?

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

December 2010

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

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