Poets you should have read by now 0 Comments

Dorothy Porter

Love Poems (Black Inc.)

Not many people can write about love, sex and desire like Dorothy Porter. Her imagery is sharp and resonates long after your eyes have finished with the page. Her word choices and line breaks stick to your skin like honey. Although she died in 2008, Porter’s words will continue to fill my bookshelf.

The poem that opens this particular collection is my favourite. ‘Crete’ carousels between the sensory passions of the natural world (‘you’re a wet socket / of white sea’) to the uncertainty of skin on skin (‘my chest echoes all night’). The poem articulates so clearly how love can overwhelm us—to the point where we are nothing but animalistic and raw:

I twist like an otter

in an underwater cave

But sometimes a more delicate approach is necessary in order to convey those quieter moments we all experience (which can be no less passionate) as seen in the poem ‘Cars. Lightning. Rain.’:

between kisses

my breath tears like wet paper

Porter understands that love is like oxygen. She sees it as a necessary element that sustains all things (‘the long water reeds / coming up for air’). But never in a clichéd sense. Sometimes a poem careers in a direction you never thought possible, delighting you in the way the words draw you in and then gently push you away (‘an arm, an exhausted arm, / hooked around you in a single bed’).

What adds substance and depth to this collection is the excerpts from the poet’s verse novels. Never before had I read something so sexually adventurous as The Monkey’s Mask, a series of poems that revolve around a lesbian detective called Jill Fitzpatrick. Writers of romance could learn a thing or three from Porter. But within the racey imagery there are still moments of gentle pause and reflection:

she doesn’t need her glasses

to see me.

In all, Love Poems is a delight to read. I would suggest it to anyone who writes about longing or desire. In fact, I would recommend it even if you don’t often read or write about these things. Porter’s poetry is wonderful and will take you in many different directions at once.

By Broede Carmody

Broede is nineteen years old and writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. He is on the Voiceworks editorial committee and, if you’re not looking, will probably steal your cat. He tweets via @BroedeCarmody.

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