Dorothy Porter dies


Steve Bacon
photo: Steve Bacon

Just heard this morning – Australian poet Dorothy Porter died yesterday. Complications from breast cancer. She was only 54.

I heard her read once, at the Christchurch Literary Festival. It was electrifying. She had strong, dark wit, and her poems bristled with energy. I can still remember the wicked smile she had on her face, reading Caldera Lullaby, the last poem of her poem-sequence Volcano Vertigo:

She’s humming her own tune
as the boat glides away,
an ash plume climbing
into the late afternoon sky.

And blessing her lump
of lucky sulphur,
and blessing the luck
of hazy head counts. 

from other worlds: poems 1997-2001
(Picador, 2001)

You barely notice the rhymes, but they’re there. And they help to hold it all together, make it purr. The sequence itself is about a couple on holiday, and the woman’s growing realisation that she’s married to an ass. (Well worth reading.)

Dorothey Porter was best known for her five verse novelsAkhenaten (1991), The Monkey’s Mask (1994), What A Piece Work (1999), Wild Surmise (2003), and El Dorado (2007). She also wrote very intelligently about poetry – you can read her Judith Wright Memorial Lecture, Lucidity, here.

She really was an original, startling voice. A great loss.

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