In an essay on the poetry of George Crabbe, Peter Porter wrote, ‘It is a great pleasure to me, a man for the littoral any day, to read Crabbe’s description of the East Anglian coast.’ Happily, there is by now a substantial and various array of writings about Porter’s work, and I would like simply to add that his being, metaphorically, ‘a man for the littoral’, with all its interfusions, is one of his distinguishing qualities, and something to rejoice in. Coastlands, and marshes, are essential to his intellect and to his imagination. He may never have had one foot in Eden, but he did rejoice in a plurality of territories.
With a hallmark ruefulness, Porter would joke that the principal use of poetry was to supply novelists and filmmakers with titles for what they produced: but he was himself a constant crosser of borders between prose and poetry, music and verse, the most sumptuous of visual works in Western civilisation and poems which might revere, chasten or ironise them. He could mount a commanding array of insights while offering in the same breath a disarming modesty about their power. If ever there was a case of someone writing poems to see what happened, Peter Porter was the man – ‘for the littoral any day’.