by Dorothy Porter
Hyland House, $19.95 pb, 114 pp,
‘Byron!’, said Max Beerbohm ‘– he would be all forgotten today if he had lived to be a florid old gentleman with iron-grey whiskers, writing very long, very able letters to The Times about the Repeal of the Com Laws.’ As we know, things turned out otherwise, and Byron lives on, in the hallowed phrase, as flash as a rat with a gold tooth.
Dorothy Porter’s Crete would be a natural home for such ironies, in that it constantly turns the givens of the literary past to new purposes – usually in the twinkling of a tongue, often at the tilting of a heart. Her Byron, or Tsvetaeva, or Mandelstam is nobody else’s, but here they all are, attended by Porterian flourish.