Saturday, May 22, 2010

Clive James on Peter Porter

TLS May 14 2010

Clive James on Peter Porter 1929-2010:

He had spent much of his career caught in a fork, punished in Australia for trying to please the Poms, and punished in the UK for being an Aussie expatriate with a frame of reference above his station. Later on, he won acceptance in both camps, and by the time of his death he was a living example of the old country's culture reinforcing itself with the energy of the new, and of the new country's culture gaining scope from an expanded context. From the Australian viewpoint, if Les Murray was still the king of the stay-at-homes, Porter was the king of the stay-aways, the position of expatriate artist having at last come to be seen as a contribution rather than a betrayal. For the British, his work and stature added up to a powerful reminder that the old Empire lived on as an intellectual event.
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To a painful extent, his character was shaped by what didn't happen: nobody, as he later complained, was ever kissed less often. From that experience, of lack of it, grew his strange conviction that women found him negligible. (He was notorious for saying that there really were two nations, but they were the attractive and the unattractive.)
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Speaking to an interviewer concerned with the eternal non-question of which of his two nations he felt nationalistic about, Peter said "patriotism and allegiance are small matters in comparison with my egotism".

I just bought from the Book Depository Porter's Selected Poems The Rest on the Flight.

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