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Peter Porter (Peter Neville Frederick Porter) Biography

(1929– ), (Peter Neville Frederick Porter), Courier-Mail, Once Bitten, Twice Bitten

Australian poet, born in Brisbane, where he became a reporter with the Courier-Mail in 1947. In 1951 he emigrated to Britain and worked in various capacities until 1968, when he became a freelance writer and broadcaster. The disciplined experimentation and social orientation of his early work reflected his association with the Group. Once Bitten, Twice Bitten (1961) and Poems Ancient & Modern (1964) contained numerous poems that gained him notice as an incisive satirist; more typical of subsequent developments is the recurrent sense of an imaginative tension between a debased contemporary culture and the traditions of European art, to which he alludes throughout his collections. A Porter Folio (1969), The Last of England (1970), and Preaching to the Converted (1972) display an increase in stylistic and thematic confidence; elliptical narratives, dramatic monologues, and outrageously humorous registrations of the absurd are among the modes employed. The considerable reputation he had gained by the early 1970s was consolidated by Living in a Calm Country (1975) and The Cost of Seriousness (1978), in which increased use of local elements and an intensified elegiac sense are encountered; the latter collection contains his most acutely personal poetry, written in response to the death of his wife in 1974. The greater directness of manner that emerges in the volume is accompanied by a new urgency in his differentiations between art and life. The Australian critic Jeff Doyle has noted that ‘discrimination of all gradations of meaning becomes a moral pursuit’ in Porter's work. The remark is appropriate to the ethical preoccupations of English Subtitles (1981), Fast Forward (1984), and The Automatic Oracle (1987), which often feature poetry of considerable complexity; the baroque richness of such writing and the constant play of wit annul objections to obscurity, while many poems form candidly straight-forward addresses to intellectual and emotional concerns. Possible Worlds (1990), The Chair of Babel (1992), and Millenial Fables (1994) demonstrate his imaginative range in the creation of elaborate fictions as vehicles for sweeping socio-cultural critiques. Among his other works are four collaborations with the Australian graphic artist Arthur Boyd; the latest, Mars (1988), forms a powerful denunciation of war. His satirical abilities and humorous command of contemporary idioms are memorable deployed in the versions from the Latin of After Martial (1972). Collected Poems was published in 1983.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellis’ [Edith Mary Pargeter] ‘Peters Biography to Portrait of Dora (Portrait de Dora)