Monday, May 31, 2010

Bring Me the Forest Salad: R.I.P. Peter Porter

The poet Peter Porter died a couple of weeks ago. He was a wonderful poet. He was very kind and supportive to me as a younger poet.

In the middle of the dark period that I fictionalised in Candy, I once, for some reason, wrote him a long letter - a kind of fan letter, I guess, that did or said I don't know what, I no longer remember. It was like a missive from the dark subterranean heart of addiction to some kind of godlike, distant figure - a functioning poet, in London! What was I doing? Willing myself towards hope? I no doubt mentioned how much I liked his work, and which poems and books in particular. I no doubt mentioned that I was a poet, but I don't think I included any poems in the letter.

I never sent it; I threw it way. I remember it felt like a hopeless idea, as most everything did back then.

A few years later I emerged from that world; having been in a tunnel for so long, it was a staggering, stuttering year or two, emerging into the brightness of the world. Eventually I gathered my poems together into a manuscript of sorts. I didn't know what to do with it. I just wanted some basic kind of feedback. I sent it to John Tranter, the poet (and now editor of the excellent Jacket too and to Porter, via his publisher in London. Both sent friendly, supportive replies, which I still have somewhere, back in Sydney. Over the years, when he was in Sydney, I had the odd cup of tea with Porter, or I'd pick him up and drop him off somewhere (he always seemed to be needing delivery), and we'd talk, always about poetry and poets. He read Candy at some point too. He was fascinated by addiction, being so far from it.

In 1975 Porter did a limited edition (1000 copies, signed and numbered) book with the painter Arthur Boyd, The Lady and the Unicorn. Two lines have always remained burned in my brain:

Bring me the forest salad, the topmost leaves which wait upon the sun
Then I will eat my own will and be nothing but light for you to preen by

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