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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Peter Porter

In their own words

Recorded 1970

Peter Porter
Audio: 2 minutes

I usually write with fair facility, that is to say, it goes straight down, but I do a considerable amount of revision afterwards. However, the thing which is most interesting to me about the process of writing is what particularly moves you to write on a, say, a theme or a particular purpose. Well, with me it’s rather like something sticking into me, something will get into my mind, and since I observe this much of a method that I have a set of notebooks which I work in, I’m usually working in, say, four notebooks at once and approaching from one end and from the other end, moving towards the middle, so that I have sort of places where I am working, like a workshop, like a sculptor might have his workshop where he has still got a piece, say, unfinished which he is working on. I have poems which are in unfinished states, which I keep going back to, and every time I get an idea for a poem I just put it in a margin and return to it. The one thing I do believe in is often choosing deliberately a particular external form before you actually choose your poem, though over the years I’ve tended to write more free verse poems, but I still like returning to poems in set forms and recently I’ve been writing a whole batch of sonnets.

I also try to use different forms and to attempt things which I haven’t done before, but mostly it’s ideas, I suppose. I’m probably an impure poet, I believe in impure poetry, I’m not interested in lyrical qualities for themselves. What interests me in poetry is the confrontation of certain sorts of language, and therefore I like to be able to use many different styles, many different ways of doing things. I neither like to be particularly modern nor particularly traditional. In my view, the best poets are those who, starting from a traditional basis, widen the language by their own imagination.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Peter Porter is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Related people

Peter Porter OAM

Related information

Poets' Portraits

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2005

The Portrait Gallery's paintings of two poets, Les Murray and Peter Porter, demonstrate two very different artists' responses to the challenge of representing more than usually sensitive and imaginative men.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency