The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems

Robert Crawford writes:

Though he is sometimes admired as a socially observant, even mordant poet of 1960s London, with its ‘jeans and bums and sweaters of the King’s Road’ in a world of ‘Market Researchers married into Vogue’, a good deal of Porter’s best poetry, early and late, has Australian resonances. Phrases from his poems of London shine out with self-protective irony; he found his clever-cleverness too hard to resist. But the finest of his early poems are those in which he engages not just with Australia but with his upbringing. ‘Eat Early Earthapples’, published in Penguin Modern Poets 2 (which Porter shared with Kingsley Amis and Dom Moraes in 1962), is skilfully autobiographical. Its ‘eagerly unhappy’ protagonist may be Audenesque in his self-presentation as ‘The boy with something wrong reading a book’, but the setting among prep school boys ‘who made fifty pounds/Over the holidays selling kangaroo hides’ is confidently and sophisticatedly Australian.

(LRB 6 October 2011)

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