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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 ...

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. He ...
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 ...
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 ...

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 ...
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 ...

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 ...


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 ...

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 ...
25 June 1987
... Journal: It’s role – Now, Then, Tomorrow afternoon, when (by the way) We have a change Of personnel. Jon Culler has got toothache; In his stead (relax, you kiwis), An unlucky break: The expat. PeterPorter, 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 ...

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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... in love with her father’s locum, Neil Micklem. Their affair lasted for years; Jannice hoped it would end in marriage. It did not. She married instead a 30-year-old advertising copywriter called PeterPorter. 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 ...

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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... PeterPorter’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 ...
17 November 1983
... for PeterPorter) 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 ...

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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... Towards the end of Gavin Ewart’s delightful and comfortable volume there is a poem called ‘It’s hard to dislike Ewart’. Too true, as Clive James or PeterPorter 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 ...

Players, please

Jonathan Bate

6 December 1984
The Oxford Book of War Poetry 
edited by Jon Stallworthy.
Oxford, 358 pp., £9.50, September 1984, 0 19 214125 2
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Secret Destinations 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 69 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 333 38268 4
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Fast Forward 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, October 1984, 0 19 211967 2
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Dark Glasses 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 71 pp., £3.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2875 5
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... is perfectly achieved. The text of the poem in Jon Stallworthy’s anthology has two misprints: for ‘falling’ read ‘fading’; for ‘The plains’, ‘These plains’. In Fast Forward, PeterPorter meditates persistently on the decline of Classical culture and the threat of nuclear war. What comes of the used-up Mediterranean When rockets point like pines in tundra Towards the profaned moon ...

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