Akis Papantonis

Akis Papantonis is an Assistant Professor at the University of Cologne. He has published prose in English and Greek literary magazines, and has translated Miroslav Penkov’s short stories and Raymond Carver’s poems into Greek. For his first book, the novella Karyotype (Kichli, 2014), he was awarded the Anagnostis 2015 First Book Award.
We are really please to have Akis’s story ‘Lights That Never Go Out’ in Smoke One, Transportation Press’ first collection of the best work from our international microfiction competition.
Transportation Press has always been about Tasmanian writers, and connecting Tasmanian writers with authors and editors in distant places… and because of this the inclusion of a writer from Greece is absolutely brilliant.
In acknowledgment of this we have asked Akis to create some audio files for us, and Akis has kindly obliged.

Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver

Follow the post below to go to our website and to hear Akis read his own work, Rear View Window, in Greek & English, and to read one of the Raymond Carver poems, Morning, Thinking of Empire, Carver in Greek & English also too.


Order your copy of Smoke, 21 microfiction stories here. 

Who Won Smoke One?

First prize –
Dalian Blood Futures by Daniel Young
Runners Up
Zoo by Robbie Arnott
What is a Hornet by Patrick Lenton

Highly Commendeds
A Transformation by Peter Timms
A World by Jasmine Searle
Lights That Never Go Out by Akis Papantonis
Green by Miriam McGarry
Wishful Thinking by Susan Lloy
Hope Floats by Madeleine Habib
The Expert by Ben Walter
Every Story is a Detective Story by Bella Li
Chasing A Cairo Coffee by Kali Myers
Connect and Divide by Bel Woods
Letter to Genghis by Konrad Muller
Eyelashes by Tania Marlowe
Choked by Matt G Turpin
Do You Mind If (after OW & SB) by Stuart Barnes
Antlers by Andrew Harper
Touch Me Not by Cam Daeng
Oh My Dear Twilight Sparkle How I Love You by Victor Medrano-Bonilla
A Great Weight by Michael Louis Kennedy


Order your print copy here
Order your electronic copy here

On Microfiction, by Geordie Williamson

St Jerome as Scholar, El Greco

There were, at last count, almost four and half billion indexed web pages on the Web. Even my smartphone’s Kindle app holds more texts than a Renaissance princeling could have accumulated over a lifetime. We all sense it, don’t we: words marching across every surface and every screen in serried rows, enclosing our attentional commons. All of which makes microfiction – with its resolute brevity, its pinprick epiphanies – nothing less than antidote to the present. The wonder of good microfiction lies nestled in this paradox: that a few, well-chosen words can weigh more than a phone book. Paul Celan called poetry ‘a kind of homecoming’, and in the best microfiction there is a sense of return, too: to first principles, to a sense that there is a craft, valuable in itself, to arranging the right words in the right order – that such passages can be densely packed with allusion and implication, can carry meaning or feeling or insight far beyond the range of the fragment that holds them, not in spite of such concision but because of it. In Weimar Germany hyperinflation became so rampant that people were obliged to carry their Deutschmarks around in wheelbarrows. The price of a cup of coffee would climb even as the patrons of a café drank them down. The only recourse for an economy trapped in such a spiral is to restore confidence in the currency, stripping the banknotes down, starting again from zero. In an age of textual hyperinflation, microfiction attempts a similar trick – generating literature from the miniscule, from the cursor’s virgin blink.

Geordie Williamson is the Editor-at-Large of Island magazine, an author, Picador Publisher and former Chief Literary Critic for The Australian.

Entries for Smoke, international microfiction competition close on May 16.
Enter here.


The Big Smoke – Sean Preston

The Big Smoke is what people who are not from London call London. Tadhg Muller is not from London, yet altogether a Londoner. For now that is true geographically, and forever in another way, whether he likes it nor not. I wonder if he ever called us the Big Smoke?

If he did, he probably wouldn’t have called it the Big Smoke in front smoke londonof me. And I wonder if he’d admit using it before he became a Londoner? Probably not. He’s guarded like that.

That guard, the inclination to withhold, an amount of smoke and mirrors, is why it was with some surprise that a few years ago on a circular table, our hands rubbing at pints like potters, he laid out a fiendish plot. He wanted to launch a literary publication that bridged writers between London an
d his homeland Tasmania. Did we have a common message? He wanted to find it. I was unsure. I asked him if he minded if I went for a smoke.

“How long have you smoked for?” he asked on my return.

“Not long. I don’t know. I guess long. 20ish?”


“Do you know that Oscar Wilde putdown?” I asked, leaping widly, as I do, “’I don’t care if you…'”

“I think that was Sarah Bernhardt putting the down on Wilde.”

“Oh right. Oh yes.”

Transportation came to be of course. Two anthologies. And they bridge that gap. Not just between London and Tasmania, but Iran too. I edited the London-based writers, and none of them, not even the Tasmanians, ever called London “the Big Smoke”. Writers, I have to admit, on the page, are pretty good at not saying the wrong thing. That’s the craft, right? And not just avoiding the wrong words, but finding the right words? Not just not calling London the Big Smoke, but finding something better. Not for the sake of it. For the sake of clarity. For the sake of saying what we mean, not what other people mean. But not saying too much of what we mean in too obvious a way. Smoke signals work better than HELP! in the sand.

If there’s one form in which you need to make sure you’re saying exactly precisely what you mean, it’s flash fiction short-short stories drabble microfiction.

Tadhg’s not long for London. He’s off. He’s taking to mainland Europe. He likes his wine. I’ll miss him. Or he works in wine. It’s hard to know; he’s guarded. He has an inclination to withhold. Off he’ll go, a magic trick, in a plume of smoke.


smoke smoke smoke by tadhg müller

There is some suggestion that no one is quite sure why SMOKE is called SMOKE.

At least that’s what our chief editor Rachel Edwards suggested in a interview with the Australia Broadcasting Commission. There have been some very clever allusions to all sorts of possibilities but as it goes for an origin, they are frankly a load of shit. Everyone involved with Transportation Press, except me, has forgotten the roots, and the roots are pretty simple.   SMOKE comes from the Chinese literary term smoke-long, a term used in reference to fiction of a set length, fiction that can be read in the time that it takes to smoke a cigarette.

Smoke, and the act of smoking, becomes a unit of measurement and the measure is time. And the optimum time? Well that depends on your universal vice, the grams, the make, is there a filter? is the smoke hand rolled? Are you in a rush?, how deep are your lungs?How strong is your heart, are your sober, tired, spent? Standing there reading and dragging on a coffin nail, dart, cigo, durrie, cancer stick, fag, सिगरेट, سیگار, سيجارة, zigarette, धुवाँ, toitíní, fumar – whatever you call it.

The key is the work is started and finished before you butt your smoke and the ashes turn grey, and our chief editor has put that down to roundabout 320 words. Our judge Adam Ouston has put it squarely at a page.

The roll of cigarettes as a measure of time (as devised by some genius in China) also has a more elaborate meaning, it points to a state of reading, a place, maybe a literary terroir (a back door, the gutter, a bench, a lane… etc.), a territory if we can talk of such thing in relation to writing and stories at their most basic. This is a pretty unique space and time to read something within, it is very much one’s own time, short and passing.

This nature can’t help but make one question the natural style for such a work; dissenting, critical, outside the pale, brief and secretive (that is my vision of such a work) – a kind of outlaw literary nature, read on the hop with a fag dangling from your teeth, By its very nature it instills structural boundaries to the work. The length of the work is tight, and the structure must embody the essential characteristic that makes for a story, and the better ones must squeeze into every inhale and exhale the essential characteristics and qualities that are in good stories, until the story doesn’t so much smoke as burn, and burn fucking bright, as bright as an ember in pitch black darkness, at least that what we’d all fight for, and that’s what we’d hope to see.

Enter here.

Tadhg Muller or Müller is a co-founder of Transportation Press and a writer. His novel, Get Fat is currently with a number of publishers. Someone should just publish it, it’s a wild ride. 


Judge Adam Smokes

The first thing Muller asked me was what I thought of the name Smoke? Excellent, I said. It’s not fire. It’s not ashes. It’s gone with the wind. There’s something cunning about it: smoke and mirrors. Legerdemain. Something more than meets the eye, like being alone in a room with the sound of someone breathing. Smoke: it gets in you, your clothes reek of it. It curls from a mouth. Put your lips around it. Suck. Three to five minutes outside the fire exit doors that say Alarmed but never are. Why? There’s something more going on here. Cunning. Trickery. Smoke and mirrors. Yes, excellent, I said. And in one of those coincidences that are only permitted by life and never literature, while I spoke to Muller I was holding in my hand Thomas Bernhard’s The Voice Imitator, a collection of 104 single-page stories, some little more than a sentence in length. A story about a dead woman’s mail that keeps arriving. One about a plague and the doctor charged on Christmas Day for the deaths of thousands. In all, twenty-six murders, four disappearances, thirteen instances of lunacy, two of libel, eight suicides. Etc. And each has a secret story. There’s more going on. Maybe a whole book’s worth. In a single page. On the small table beside me, in another one of those life-coincidences, I had Simon Armitage’s Seeing Stars, which was on top of Cortázar’s Cronopios and Famas, which formed a tiny altar beside Bolaño’s Between Parentheses, which lipped up onto Lydia Davis’s Can’t and Won’t, which had as a bookmark a folded print-out of James Kelman’s smoke-long ‘Acid’, which featured Pascal on the reverse in my scratchy hand: ‘I have made this letter longer than usual because I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.’ I could tell Muller was smoking. Long pauses between sentences. Filthy habit. Practically taboo now. And so I told him I thought it was probably a good idea as the flames got higher.

Adam Ouston is the judge of Transportation Press’ international microfiction competition, Smoke. Generously sponsored by Fullers Bookshop, entries are open until May 16. Enter here.
Image – Nusrat Durrani. Things We Lost in the Fire, Jhilmil Breckenridge 

Smoke is live

What is SMOKE?
It’s many things: carbon and other particles suspended in the air, a cloud or a column in the atmosphere, the vapour formed by heat on moisture… a Persian cat, something that sticks out of your mouth, an erstwhile coffin nail, smoke is everything you see in its formless, fluid, manifestations, that make it recognisable.  
Thanks to the generous support of Fullers Bookshop. it’s also our latest project, in the form of an international micro fiction competition that is open to everyone.
There is prize money up for grabs, $400 AUD for the winner and $200 for two runners up. These stories, along with a selection of stories our judge Adam Ouston considers to be highly commendable, will be published in an electronic collection with a limited print run, later in the year.
Smoke,  promises to kick of another vibrant year for Transportation.
How to enter:
Who: Entry is open to everyone.
What: Microfiction, up to 320 words on one page, double spaced, size 12 on any theme. Do not include your name on this document, judging will be blind.
Include a 50 author bio in the body of the email
How: All entries must be emailed to submit@transportationpress.net
The body of the email must include your name, the title of the piece and mention (Paypal or bank account) of how the entry fee was paid.
When: Entries open March 3, 2017 and close at midnight, Tasmanian time, April 30, 2017
IMG_1890Adam Ouston

Adam’s story ‘Sodom Syndrome’closed our first anthology, Islands and Cities. His work has appeared in many literary magazines such as The Lifted Brow, Canary Press, Island, Overland and The Review of Australian Fiction, as well as news and culture publications. He is the recipient of the 2014 Erica Bell Literary Award for his manuscript ‘The Party’, which was also shortlisted in the 2015 Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Awards. He lives in Hobart, Tasmania.


Can I submit more than one entry?
Yes, though each entry must be submitted separately and each entry attracts an entry fee.
(these will be added to, as they become frequent)

Sholeh Wolpe and the contemporary essence of Persian poetry

the-conference-of-birds_cover-678x1024Sholeh Wolpe is a wonderful poet and translator, hailing from Iran, currently residing in LA, via the UK and Trinidad, where she was sent to live with her aunt at age 13. Her work, while contemporary, is part of a centuries’ long Persian love and respect for poetry, and in this interview, recorded in Gaungzhou, China late last year, she will tell you of childhood games that even featured poetry.

She is not able to go back to Iran, partly because it would mean giving up citizenship elsewhere, and partly because she translated the powerful, erotically charged poetry of Forough Farrokzhad, a poet, whose words, says Sholeh, unveiled the words of Iranian women. Her new translation, of the twelfth century Sufi Mystic, and teacher of Rumi, (who is incidentally the biggest selling poet in the USA today) Attar’s Conference of the Birds,  will be released from WW Norton this year.

This interview was recorded at Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou, where Rachel Edwards, from Transportation Press was attending the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Conference, as was gorgeous Sholeh.

We Are Taking to China, part two.

Editor in Chief of Transportation Press, Rachel Edwards, visited China to discuss international publishing collaborations, this is the second installment of her account of the visit.

Day one, part two

Borges wrote (in Spanish) of Canton, that it is “where the river of the Water of Life spills into the sea.” Yet when he wrote he always had the English translation in mind, a beautiful and spacious mindset, yet limiting in its own ways. Borges’ Argentine Spanish, perfect in its very own voluptuous manner, English is so much more prosaic and broad. My first love was Argentinian, his lyrical, seductive Spanish had me at the first syllable. And his eyes, his eyes. But I digress.

Much of the APWT gathering in Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton, revolved around an axis of translation. We heard poets read in their own language, then read their English translation. Nha Thuyen, who runs Ajar Press in Hanoi Vietnam, a stand out.  We heard Chinese writers talk about their work, through translators and we heard Linda Jaivin discuss her circuitous and accidental route (though nothing is an accident, the Taoist in her pointed out) to translation. We heard Sholeh Wolpé transcend so much of the chilly everyday, with her translation of the adored Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad. She also read some work from Attar, Sufi mystic, teacher of Rumi, and whose The Conference of the Birds, translated by Sholeh is being released next year.  More on Sholeh in the next post, she is amazing, her poetry and translations, sublime. I am excited to be working with her in future.

Then there were the discussions around cultural translations, the ricochet and dancing much more than the mere technical aspects of poetry and language, and how this is where the true creativity of translation comes in, the true understanding of the power of language. Page Richard, Associate Professor in the School of English at the University of Hong Kong discussed this beautifully. She is also a writer and she works with the HKU Black Box Theatre. She discussed the translation of plays, not in language, but in location, in particular a contemporary play from the US that she had put on in HongKong, but it needed to be changed to suit the location. To stage it as written would have appeared trite in Hong Kong, the oversimplified East/West dynamic was skating precariously when it was performed in the States and could have simply been silly if staged as so in Hong Kong. When performed, the play retained its integrity, the story was told, and the effect it had on audience worked similarly though the geographical location of the performative piece was altered.

She spoke alongside Osamah Sami screenwriter, memoirist, stand up comedian and actor, whose award winning book, Good Muslim Boy was published by Hardie Grant in 2015.  This is a memoir that has been, in a rare literary volte-face, been adapted from a screenplay, where it would normally go the other way around.

Osamah was born in Iran to Iraqi parents, who had left Iran before his birth. His early years were spent growing up as the Iran Iraq war burned around him, and his family came to Australia when he was a teenager, but not before he had witnessed devastation and war at close range. He had replied to AWPT organizer Sanaz Foutohi, herself an Iranian Australian, when she asked how he was, “I am a ball,” – glorious response, but something at only works in Persian, and not at all as a literal translation. He explained that this meant he was full and strong, ready to bounce, but that simply does not work in English. The film of his book from his screenplay is being released next year, ‘Ali’s Wedding’. He explained that the first scene is him taking off in a tractor, the police in hot pursuit. It then cuts to a scene of the actor playing his father being tortured. This is a life translated to screen and I look forward to seeing it.

Rachel received a grant from Arts Tasmania’s ArtsBridge program to visit China.

We Are Taking to China, part one.

Editor in Chief of Transportation Press, Rachel Edwards, visited China to discuss international publishing collaborations, this is the first installment of her account of the visit.

At the other end of the table and at a rakish incline, a double bass leans against the wall, outside there are sounds of sweeping, industrial hammering and birds. The wind that arrives each year from icy Siberia arrived yesterday with a sodden, relentless rain and this morning I accidentally ordered intestine noodles for breakfast. I’m in Guangzhou for the 9th Asia Pacific Writers and Translators (APWT) summit/conference/confab. The sun’s coming up on the apartments opposite where I’m staying with young jazz musicians, a cat in a jumper and a big black dog, too playful for the space. The apartment is up the road from Sun Yat-Sen University where I’ve spent the last two days immersed in discussions, debate, challenges and interviews with other literary activists, writers, translators, editors, event producers from the Asia Pacific Region.

Day one, part one.

There is a bookshop in Guangzhou called Libreria Borges, Institute of Contemporary Art that houses a bookshop dedicated to the French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet and other post ’45 thinkers. The second story of the bookshop is home to Chinese video art (more on this arcane space later). Nicholas Jose, editor of the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature and author of novels and short stories opened the conference with a short introduction to APWT and their inception in a thatched hut, in a rice paddy in Bali in 2007. He talked about the flexibility and fluidity of the gatherings that have followed, and that is manifest in the difficulty of naming these gatherings – ‘conference’ is wrong, there is a beautifully collapsed structure, a sharing of information between audience and panelists, not a one way flow, ‘summit’ may work and is used on the program, ‘gathering’, too casual for an event that has had months of planning, organisation, and production. Jose talked about Libreria Borges and about MAK Halliday, a linguist who began his work in China in the 1940s and has a building at Sun Yat-Sen named in his honour. A recent essay of Halliday’s, is called ‘That ‘certain cut’; towards a characterology of Mandarin Chinese’. Jose asked just what would be the ‘cut’ of a literary community, what mixing, what verbal play could define a characterology of such a gathering. A ‘cut and a splice’ he concludes, may be an apt description.

He referred to a recent piece on Time Out Beijing, where experts choose the best Chinese fiction books of the last century. Alongside a number of Chinese writers including Nobel Laureate, Mo Yan and his novel, Red Sorghum, sit JG Ballard for Empire of the Sun, The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck (another Nobel Laureate). This a beautifully inclusive interpretation of ‘Chinese’ novel, anyone is able to write one. The only thing that these books have in common, apart from their setting, is that they are readily available in English translation. Which begs the question, what books were left out of this list?

He talks about the increasing recognition of both Asian writers in the West, and their translators, noting Madeline Thien’s shortlisting for the Booker, and the presence of Han Kang’s translator Deborah Smith alongside her when she was awarded the Man Booker International for her grueling novel The Vegetarian and he reminds us that we must engage as advocates. He has set a perfect, international, warm and distinct tone for us to continue conversations, some of which began for me at APWT summit in Bangkok in 2013, including one with Kulpreet Yadav, editor of Open Road Review, of which I now am the non fiction editor.

The confabulation has begun, this is only the beginning. Where to next?

Rachel received a grant from Arts Tasmania’s ArtsBridge program to visit China.