Pure Poetry #28 : Dorothy Porter

Pure Poetry Week(s):

#1 – 2/23/2011 – Intro & Def Poetry Jam, by Riese
#2 – 2/23/2011 – Eileen Myles, by Carmen
#3 – 2/23/2011 – Anis Mojgani, by Crystal
#4 – 2/24/2011 – Andrea Gibson, by Carmen & Katrina/KC Danger
#5 – 2/25/2011 – Leonard Cohen, by Crystal
#6 – 2/25/2011 – Staceyann Chin, by Carmen
#7 – 2/25/2011 – e.e. cummings, by Intern Emily
#8 – 2/27/2011 – Louise Glück, by Lindsay
#9 – 2/28/2011 – Shel Silverstein, by Intern Lily & Guest
#10 – 2/28/2011 – Michelle Tea, by Laneia
#11 – 2/28/2011 – Saul Williams, by Katrina Chicklett Danger
#12 – 3/2/2011 – Maya Angelou, by Laneia
#13 – 3/4/2011 – Jack Spicer, by Riese
#14 – 3/5/2011 – Diane DiPrima, by Sady Doyle
#15 – 3/6/2011 – Pablo Neruda, by Intern Laura
#16 – 3/7/2011 – Vanessa Hidary, by Lindsay
#17 – 3/7/2011 – Adrienne Rich, by Taylor
#18 – 3/8/2011 – Raymond Carver, by Riese
#19 – 3/9/2011 – Rock WILK, by Gabrielle
#20 – 3/9/2011 – Veronica Franco, by Queerie Bradshaw
#22 – 3/12/2011 – William Carlos Williams & Robert Creeley, by Becky
#23 – 3/13/2011 – NSFW Sunday is Pure Poetry Edition, by Riese
#24 – 3/14/2011 – Charles Bukowski, by Intern Emily
#25 – 3/16/2011 – Rainer Maria Rilke, by Riese
#26 – 3/17/2011 – Lee Harwood by Mari
#27 – 3/18/2011 – Jeffrey McDaniel by Julieanne
#28 – 3/21/2011 – Dorothy Porter by Julia

Gorgeous Breasts

After our first time

we went to a Chinese restaurant

and counted on our

……..charged fingers

the relatives

the friends

who’d never be the same

we were breathless

in the high wind

of our secret

You really need to know about Dorothy Porter. She was an Australian poet, an out lesbian, and basically awesome. She was a highly influential poet on the Australian scene, and was also considered to be one of Australia’s most influential lesbians. She sadly passed away in 2008 aged only 54 following a long struggle with breast cancer.

She wrote this about her long term partner:

“My At-Last Lover”
Your face sleeps


in the early morning


…………..of my slack arm

you’re my at-last sound asleep


you’re my cat

………with a dreaming paw

…………..flexing in my hand

you’re my raw storm

…………..gorgeously spent

and what am I, darling?


and full of trapped bubbles

………like honeycomb

“Poetry’s like sex – you can’t fake an orgasm.” Porter was a great advocate of simple, clear, concise poetry, and her own work is stripped back, bursting with striking imagery and natural themes and sometimes very funny:

In love I’ve got no style

my heart is decked out

in bright pink tracksuit pants

Porter was a great advocate of the verse novel, a rare and difficult breed where the balance between poetry and narrative has to be just right. I think this is where Porter shines brightest.

Her verse novel, The Monkey’s Mask is a noir-esque murder mystery featuring a lesbian private detective. In verse. It sounds impossible, but Porter pulls it off with aplomb, The Monkey’s Mask is not only a gripping thriller, but it is full of excellent individual poems. Basically, Porter wrote a book that is stripped back so just the good stuff is left.

Speaking of the good stuff, Porter knows how to write a sex scene:

“First Move”
she’s turning her hand

moist palm

…………..into mine

her skin

you could hear my heart

……..in Perth

she picks up my hand

I swallow my tongue

she brings my hand

to her mouth

and sucks my ring


‘you’re trembling’

she says

my other hand

floats to her

touches her throat

her perfume

her eyes

the hot tip

of her tongue.

They also made The Monkey’s Mask into a movie, starring Susie Porter and Kelly McGillis. While it is in no way as good as the book and you should totally read the book instead of watching the movie, I feel that the poster is probably relevant to your interests:

The dominant theme in Porter’s work is love and passion, and it’s no surprise then that the one volume that collects work from across her career is called Love Poems. This is another one she wrote for her long term partner:

The Bee Hut
There’s a damp melancholy

in T’ang poetry

that smudges

the lovely jade


I love Walt Whitman’s

spunky company

but under his bardic


I can hear his lonely heart


at the turned back

of some deaf rough trade

So many poets


in the cold faery spaces

between their frost-bitten ears.

How lucky I am

to hear you, darling,

coming up the stairs

to smell the coffee

floating ahead of you

like my favourite incense.

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Julia has written 4 articles for us.


  1. When I was fifteen, The Monkey’s Mask rocked my world. I bought it at a car boot sale, took it home and I read it like every word was taking a bite out of my soul but like I needed to be eaten. I went into that book without any real grasp of the concept of “being in the closet” and came out – well, out.

  2. Thanks for the intro. I feel ashamed that I’m an Australian with half an Arts degree & I’d not heard of her. Then again, poetry has rarely done it for me. Though I do remember enjoying Seth’s ‘Gate’. I’ll definitely be giving The Monkey’s Mask a whirl!

  3. Beautiful. Really Beautiful. Thanks for making me aware of her. I have not read her before but will get her poems this week. The imagery she evokes is rich, sensuous, gorgeous, but also earthy, which I really like.

    “First Move” was a beautiful slow motion study of foreplay in words…literally made me tear up…..I know, I know, I know….I am such a lez……

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