If any volume of Selected Poems must be in part the autobiography of an imagination, it is subject to the vicissitudes and ironies which attend all autobiography. One gazes at it and finds familiar lineaments, but one also finds mobilities and stands made more evident than a more partial acquaintance can show. The very title is a warning that the whole story –whatever that might be – is not to be found here: a ‘Selected Poems’ is the outcome of recurrent options.... (read more)
The cover illustration of Peter Porter’s selection of essays shows a mosaic from the Basilica di S. Marco, Venezia, in which Noah leans out from the wall of the Ark and releases the questing dove. The last words of the selection go ...... (read more)
Most of a lifetime ago, I read of an exhibit at the Bell Telephone headquarters. It consisted of a box from which, at the turning of a switch, a hand emerged. The hand turned off the switch and returned to its box. If this struck me as sinister, it was because the gambit seemed emblematic of human perversity – of a proneness to self-annulment ...... (read more)
W.H. Auden, following Samuel Butler, thought that ‘the true test of imagination is the ability to name a cat’, and plenty of people, poets, and others have believed this: to recast a dictum of Christ’s, if you can’t be trusted with the cats, why should we trust you with the tigers? Gwen Harwood could be trusted with the cats, and with yet more domestic things; here, for example, is her fairly late poem ‘Cups’... (read more)
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 littor ...
Peter Steele once described his teaching and writing as ‘acts of celebration’. He is – and was – quite literally a celebrant: in his role as a Jesuit priest, and as a poet of praise. Those acts of celebration extend to his prose works as well, both his homilies and his literary essays, especially those that take up the matter of poetry ...... (read more)
Bricks, knowledge, gravity
‘I just read a history of bricks.’
We learn about the ways our teachers have influenced us over many years. As an undergraduate student at the University of Melbourne, I took every class taught by Professor Peter Steele SJ. More than a decade after I first ...
But wait, there’s more – as when the hummingbird
flies backwards for the hell of it, or
the odd flamingo’s pinkened up by snacking
on blue-green algae. Aeschylus, potted
To dinner as a guest at the Lotos Club, on East 66th St in New York. Named apparently after Tennyson’s Lotos Eaters’ territory – ‘In the afternoon they came unto a land in which it seemed always afternoon’, not to be confused with Robert Burton’s ‘afternoon men’, who are permanently smashed. The Latos Club’s 1870 Constitution declares its intent to promote and develop literature, art, sculpture and much else. One thing caught my ear, and one my eye. It was the first time I have heard anybody speak in virtually the same breath of ‘my ancestors’ and ‘residuals’. And I was glad to see that the Club boasted yet another painting of Tom Wolfe in (so to speak) full fig, white on white – glad partly because it reminded me that of all the worthy injunctions offered me as a young Jesuit, that against becoming a ‘clerical fop’ has been obeyed triumphantly. One has to start somewhere …... (read more)