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Peter Neville Frederick Porter (born 16 February 1929) is an Australian-born British poet. He was a regular participant in the weekly meetings of The Group.



Porter was born in Brisbane, Australia, in 1929. His mother died in 1938. He emigrated to England in 1951, and in 1955 he began attending meetings of "The Group."

He met Shirley Jannice Henry in 1958 and they married in 1961. They had two daughters born in 1962 and 1965. Jannice committed suicide in 1974.

In 1991 Porter married Christine Berg.

In 2001 he was Poet in Residence at the Royal Albert Hall.

In 2004 he was one of the nominees for the prestigious position of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.


His poems first began appearing in summer 1958 and October 1959 issues of Delta[1]. The publication of his poem 'Metamorphosis' in the Times Literary Supplement in January 1960 brought his work to a wider audience.[2] His first collection — Once Bitten Twice Bitten — was published by Scorpion Press in 1961.

Influences on his work include: W. H. Auden, John Ashbery, and Wallace Stevens.

He has gone through distinct poetic stages, from the epigrams and satires of his early works - Once Bitten Twice Bitten, to the elegiac mode of his later ones - The Cost of Seriousness and English Subtitles.

Much of his work is satire, and he has been described as one of the few really talented satirists to emerge in the 1950s and 1960s.

In a recorded conversation with his friend Clive James he stated:

"the glory of present-day English writing in America, in Australia and in Britain, is what is left over of the old regular metrical pattern and how that can be adapted to the new sense that the main element, the main fixture of poetry is no longer the foot (you know, the iambus or the trochee) but the cadence. It seems that what is very important is to get the best of the old authority, the best of the old discipline along with the best of the new freedom of expression."

In 2007 he was made a Royal Society of Literature Companion of Literature, an honour bestowed to a maximum of ten living writers.




Individual Collections

  • Once Bitten Twice Bitten, Scorpion Press, 1961.
  • Poems Ancient and Modern, Scorpion Press, 1964.
  • A Porter Folio, Scorpion Press, 1969.
  • The Last of England, Oxford University Press, 1970.
  • After Martial, Oxford University Press, 1972.
  • Preaching to the Converted, Oxford University Press, 1972.
  • Jonah, with Arthur Boyd Secker & Warburg, 1973.
  • Living in a Calm Country, Oxford University Press, 1975.
  • The Lady and the Unicorn (poetry book)|The Lady and the Unicorn, with Arthur Boyd Secker & Warburg, 1975.
  • The Cost of Seriousness, Oxford University Press, 1978.
  • English Subtitles, Oxford University Press, 1981.
  • Fast Forward (poetry book)|Fast Forward, Oxford University Press, 1984.
  • Narcissus with Arthur Boyd, Seckers & Warburg, London, 1984.
  • The Automatic Oracle, Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Mars, with Arthur Boyd Deutsch, 1988.
  • Possible Worlds, Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • The Chair of Babel, Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Millennial Fables, Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • Dragons in Their Pleasant Palaces, Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Both Ends Against the Middle, 1999 as a section in Collected Poems Volume 2.
  • Max Is Missing, Picador/Macmillan, 2001.
  • Afterburner, Picador/Macmillan, 2004.
  • Better Than God, Picador, 2009


  • Solemn Adultery at Breakfast Creek The Keepsake Press, London, 1968 (200 copies)
  • The Animal Programme: Four Poems Anvil Press Poetry Ltd, London, 1982 (250 copies). ISBN 0856461075.
  • A King's Lynn Suite, King's Lynn Poetry Festival, 1999.
  • Return to Kerguelen, Vagabond Press, London, 2001.


  • Words Without Music, Sycamore Press, 1968.
  • Epigrams by Martial, Poem-of-the-Month Club, 1971.


  • After Martial Oxford University Press, 1972.
  • from the Greek Anthology in Penguin Classics edition
  • Michelangelo, Life, Letters, and Poetry, with George Bull Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Liu Hongbin, A Day Within Days, with the author. Ambit Books, London 2006

Selected and Collected

  • Collected Poems, Oxford University Press, 1983.
  • A Porter Selected: Poems 1959-1989. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Collected Poems. 2 vols. Oxford & Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1999.


  • Saving from the Wreck: Essays on Poetry. Trent, 2001.

Appearance in Collections and Anthologies

Books Edited

  • A Choice of Pope’s Verse Faber & Faber, 1971.
  • New Poems, 1971-1972: A P. E. N. Anthology of Contemporary Poetry Hutchinson, 1972.
  • The English Poets: From Chaucer to Edward Thomas, with Anthony Thwaite Secker & Warburg, 1974.
  • New Poetry I, with Charles Osborne, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1975.
  • Thomas Hardy, selected, with photographs by John Hedgecoe. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1981.
  • The Faber Book of Modern Verse 4th edition, originally edited by Michael Roberts Faber & Faber, 1982.
  • William Blake, selected , Oxford University Press, 1986
  • Christina Rossetti, selected, Oxford University Press, 1986
  • William Shakespeare, with an introduction, C.N. Potter, 1987, Aurum, 1988.
  • Complete Poems, by Martin Bell, Bloodaxe, 1988.
  • John Donne, edited, Aurum, 1988.
  • The Fate of Vultures: New Poetry of Africa, with Kofi Anyidoho, and Musaemura Zimunya. Heinemann International, 1989.
  • Lord Byron, Aurum, 1989
  • W. B. Yeats: The Last Romantic, Aurum, 1990.
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley, selected, Aurum, 1991.
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, selected, Aurum, 1992.
  • Robert Burns, selected, Aurum, 1992.
  • The Romantic Poets: Byron, Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, selected, Aurum, 1992.
  • Robert Browning, selected, Aurum, 1993.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, selected Aurum, 1994.
  • The Oxford Book of Australian Verse Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Selected Poems of Lawrence Durrell Faber and Faber, 2006.

Scores and Libretti


  1. ^ Kaiser, page 99
  2. ^ TLS No. 3021. Kaiser, page 99
  3. ^ "Mildura Writers' Festival, Thursday 20 - Sunday 23 July 2006". Arts Festival 07 Mildura/Wentworth. Retrieved 2007-08-04.  


  • When London Calls: The Expatriation of Australian Creative Artists to Britain, Cambridge University Press, 1999
  • Kaiser, John R: Peter Porter: A Bibliography 1954 – 1986 Mansell, London and New York, 1990. ISBN 0-7201-2032-2.
  • Steele, Peter, Peter Porter: Oxford Australian Writers Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1992. ISBN 0-19-553282-1

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Peter Neville Frederick Porter (born 1929-02-16) is an Australian-born poet and critic who has lived for most of his adult life in Britain. He was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2002, and the Royal Society of Literature made him a Companion of Literature in 2007.


  • We cannot know what John of Leyden felt
    Under the Bishop's tongs – we can only
    Walk in temperate London, our educated city,
    Wishing to cry as freely as they did who died
    In the Age of Faith.
    • "The Historians Call Up Pain", first collected in Once Bitten, Twice Bitten (1961); cited from Edward Lucie-Smith and Philip Hobsbaum (eds.) A Group Anthology (London: Oxford University Press, 1963) p. 83.
  • In the New World, happiness is enforced.
    • "In the New World Happiness is Allowed", in The Cost of Seriousness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978) p. 28.
  • In Australia
    Inter alia,
    Think they’re Socrates.
    • Quoted in Charles Osborne Giving It Away (London: Secker & Warburg, 1986) p. 114.
  • Redeemers always reach the world too late.
    God dies, we live; God lives, we die. Our fate.
    • "A Tale of Two Pieties", in The Chair of Babel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) p. 51.

The Last of England (1970)

Quotations are cited from the 1st edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1970).

  • Language of the liberal dead speaks
    From the soil of Highgate, tears
    Show a great water table is intact.
    You cannot leave England, it turns
    A planet majestically in the mind.
    • "The Last of England", p. 1.
  • Much have I travelled in the realms of gold
    for which I thank the Paddington and Westminster
    Public Libraries.
    • "The Sanitized Sonnets: 4", p. 41.
  • A professional
    is one who believes he has
    invented breathing.
    • "Japanese Jokes", p. 62.
  • Somewhere at the heart
    of the universe sounds the
    true mystic note: Me.
    • "Japanese Jokes", p. 63.

External links

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