|About the Book|
The Alphabet Murders ended up as a long argument with traditional poetry (including Modernism, now part of history) and a dismantling of its values- writers are traduced, parodied and dismissed, and poetry itself is seen as a voyage to nowhereMoreThe Alphabet Murders ended up as a long argument with traditional poetry (including Modernism, now part of history) and a dismantling of its values- writers are traduced, parodied and dismissed, and poetry itself is seen as a voyage to nowhere (literally, zero). At the last moment a supernumerary stanza (A, the twenty-seventh letter of the alphabet) allows the poem to return to its own departure point. As in many Tranter poems, the ending of The Alphabet Murders turns the reader back to the beginning, trapped inside the roundabout of art.En route some masks are adopted and disfigured. The Australian poet R D FitzGerald had published an essay in Southerly magazine in 1973, arguing for a considered respect for tradition on the part of young poets. ‘(T)radition is not just an impulse out of the past-’ FitzGerald writes, ‘it is a progressive movement overtaking the present and helping carry it into the future.’ True enough, perhaps, but the young Tranter was having none of it. In section 20 (After R D FitzGerald) of ‘The Alphabet Murders’ Tranter transcribes a hundred or so words of this article, chopping it into free verse lines, then gradually stitches nonsense phrases into the fabric:… the very incoherence and craziness of mostthat you have to say are not restrictions,but machinery capable of jacking up the present tenseand marching it along like a heavy sandwichinto the slobbering mouth of the future. (42–43)In all, Tranter seems to trust that the range, vigour and stylishness of his attack on earlier forms of poetry will provide its own set of values to replace those which he has disparaged so energetically, though of course culture has a way of producing and then absorbing almost any critique.