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Serious Drinking

Peter Porter, 27 October 1988

... It comes from wanting to be perfect. All human pain from spite to rape Is just a reading on the grape And all these living counterfeits Are for philosophers’ defeats. A discontent so undivine Moves water one notch up to wine. Put it away, here comes the prefect. The sinner is paid in his own coin. Blood is love’s apotheosis And brings the liver to cirrhosis, The flowers of sleep which towered stand Are the famed brandy of the damned And Wunderkinder who begin With champagne lights may end in gin ...

Two Poems

Peter Porter, 12 January 1995

... About Auden’s Juvenilia He knew he would be great   And told his tutor so But lots of second-rate   Ramshackle lines ‘to go’ Like pizzas on a plate   He ordered up: we know His Hardy phase, his Yeats. But as we sort out from   The country metaphors (That almanac birdsong,   Those Edward Thomas spores) The few bits which belong   To his mature scores, We smell death on the Somme ...

Why the barbarians kept us waiting

Peter Porter, 9 September 1993

... They knew they were some kind of a solution But wouldn’t risk their legendary horses, Battle wagons: they’d read about pollution, High-rise slums and poisoned watercourses. To keep their army healthy they ran races On plains and let our cameramen record them – Nightly the same professional drained faces Fronted clips on TV and deplored them. Their Great Khan broadcast from his tented city His moderate ambitions while Supremos Wrote for Sunday Papers and the witty Juniors at the FO shredded memos ...

Sticking to the text

Peter Porter, 2 May 1985

... In the Great Book of Beginning we read That the word was God and was with God And are betrayed by the tiniest seed Of all the world’s beginnings, to thrash Like sprats in a bucket, caught in deed As in essence by shapes of ourselves, Our sounds the only bargains we may plead. So starts this solipsistic essay about words, Its first stanza chasing its own tail, Since no word will betray another word In this sodality, self-repressing and male, And we discover, hardly believing our eyes And ears, a sort of chromatic scale, That whatever lives and feels is logos ...

Lament Addressed to the People

Peter Porter, 21 May 1998

... A version of Schubert’s ‘Klage an das Volk’) Youth of our Days, gone like the Days of our Youth! The People’s strength, unnumbered impotence, The Crowd’s gross pressure without consequence, The Insignificant our only glimpse of Truth! The Power I wield springs always from my Pain, That remnant of a preternatural striving. I cannot act, and Time with its conniving Treats all our deeds with infinite disdain ...

The Cast of Campagnatico

Peter Porter, 1 April 1982

... Since a harebrained devil has changed the world To scenes from a Nature Documentary, There are those of us who will forever seek Rational landscapes, dotted with walled cemeteries, Unquestioned rivers of familiar fords And an efficient bus from which adulteresses Alight before the ascent to the neighbour village. Not that His blocked thumb is absent: those English families tooting along the scatty road (Our fifteen-year-old crunching the clutch Of the little Fiat) are outside the cemetery Before anyone notices the just-widowed blob At the armorial gates – the regret, the shame, The silence – she at the gardens of death which need A constant tending, and us hurrying To lunch at the hydrophilic villa – The Oldest Presence of All will be well pleased ...

Two Poems

Peter Porter, 9 July 1987

... The Story of U And now the track is snowed with words, The poor train of childhood followed, A good aunt picking out the thirds On an old piano, gutted, hollowed By years which left the trees the same Adding one storey to the house In others’ hands – and can you claim That here sex showed you her old powers? The little ghosts which charmingly In gentle masochism shone Grew up and lived oppressively Till loving was a looking-on; The staff was joined by Feminists With good French accents and strong wrists, Then blinds were drawn and hands went                                                         free – ‘Une dentelle s’abolit ...

Spiderwise

Peter Porter, 4 September 1986

... To Clive James Trapdoor The origin of metaphor is strange. As boys we used (but don’t let me forget I only watched, I wasn’t very brave) To put two spiders in a bottle, wave It over flame, which usually made them fight, Or flood them from their deep holes for a change. These were the deadly trapdoors whose one bite Sent an inclusive poison racing through Your veins: I think we thought the risk absolved Us from all guilt, our cruelty dissolved In danger ...

Three Poems

Peter Porter, 20 December 1984

... Pisa Oscura You know how images keep coming back, The lifted arm before the heart attack, Yet out of all the basket-work of shapes And plots, those vandalised electroscapes Of daytime dreaming, how remarkable The least significant of them is able To light the mind and flood the memory! Don’t introspect if you want honesty, And that’s what Freudians presumably Intend when fixing eyes upon a past That’s like a slow vertiginous open-cast Whose work load is regrettably colossal, Its every truth impacted like a fossil ...

Like a row of books by Faber

Peter Porter, 22 January 1987

Other Passports: Poems 1958-1985 
by Clive James.
Cape, 221 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 224 02422 1
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... in the field of Pop. Let it be better made, as lyrics and music were in the days of Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart and Ira Gershwin, is his belief. This is an important aspect of his drive into popular culture: not just to enjoy the warmth of a wider appreciation and so avoid the inward-looking aridity of much experimental art, but to join in with and even ...

Bad Dreams

Robert Crawford: Peter Porter, 6 October 2011

The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems 
by Peter Porter.
Picador, 421 pp., £12.99, May 2010, 978 0 330 52218 2
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... would end in marriage. It did not. She married instead a 30-year-old advertising copywriter called Peter Porter. He was an Australian immigrant in London, and had written a lot of poems, but published relatively few; she was a nurse who seemed ‘very English’ in accent and tastes, and was admired for having a figure like a ballet dancer. They set up ...

Inside Out

John Bayley, 4 September 1980

The Collected Ewart 1933-1980 
by Gavin Ewart.
Hutchinson, 412 pp., £10, June 1980, 0 09 141000 2
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Selected Poems and Prose 
by Michael Roberts, edited by Frederick Grubb.
Carcanet, 205 pp., £7.95, June 1980, 0 85635 263 2
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... volume there is a poem called ‘It’s hard to dislike Ewart’. Too true, as Clive James or Peter Porter might say, possibly with a certain wry exasperation. Generally speaking, our fondness and admiration for poets does go with a potential of patronage or dislike, a pleasure in our sense of the absurdities and vulnerabilities of their worlds ...

An Alternative Agenda

Ian Hamilton, 25 June 1987

... Jon Culler has got toothache; In his stead (relax, you kiwis), An unlucky break: The expat. Peter Porter, with some stuff You can quite happily ignore On why he thinks professors are a bore. Stuff him. We welcome too, From Critical Inquiry, our lone Yank: W.J.T. Mitchell seems at first Unsettlingly cheery. Underneath He’s ninety per cent ...

The Offices in the Old Baths

Peter Redgrove, 17 November 1983

... for Peter Porter) I The maroon-hued slugs swallow the garden down. Out at sea the ships on fire with light Like burning soldiers drawn up on parade. I switch on the electric light; It is a furnace in a vase. Then the maroon that slaps the night: The lifeboat is out, One of those lighted ships is toiling With some current like a great maroon dragon; Let its stacked lights not be quenched ...

Moving Pictures

Claude Rawson, 16 July 1981

English Subtitles 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 56 pp., £3.50, March 1981, 0 19 211942 7
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Unplayed Music 
by Carol Rumens.
Secker, 53 pp., £4.50, February 1981, 9780436439001
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Close Relatives 
by Vicki Feaver.
Secker, 64 pp., £4.50, February 1981, 0 436 15185 5
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... Peter Porter’s imagination tends towards the epigram, but not quite in the popular sense which suggests brief, pithy encapsulations of wit or wisdom: Believe me, Flaccus, the epigram is more than just a cracker-motto or an inch of frivolous joking to fill up a column. When, in 1972, he published the selection of translations called After Martial, he tended to avoid ‘the two-line squibs ...

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