Tip of the Quill: A Journal
On Peter Porter.

The Guardian has a nice piece up at the moment tracing the life and work of Peter Porter, one of my favorite contemporary poets. At the very end of it they include one of Porter’s works, which I’m reposting here to give you some sense as to why I enjoy his stuff:

Both Ends Against the Middle
Deep inside the Imperial War
Where children are surprised by
undreamt dreams
Destruction’s most impartial
The Rolls-Royce Merlin Aircraft
Engine, gleams.
It seems just lowered by Donatello’s
He would have known why copper
pipes entwine
So murderous a tabernacle
And where control and fate might
share a line.
The Spitfire’s engine’s once kinetic
And Donatello’s layered appetite
Are Humanism’s judge and jury,
The Alpha and Omega of
from “Both Ends Against the Middle”,
published in
Collected Poems, Vol 2
(Oxford University Press)

What I enjoy about Porter is how he revisits the notion of rhyming poetry (which I usually associate with dry, crufty twaddle) and makes it crackle, mixing both the end-of-line rhyme scheme with an internal internal rhyme scheme to come up with erratic patchwork connections like dreams – gleams – seems in the first stanza-and-change in the work above. I also love his blending of the traditional with the contemporary, as evidenced by his suggestion of Donatello’s insight into the construction of the Spitfire engine. Like some kind of a Mexican chocolate truffle, it’s a short piece but multilayered, appealing first with its surface structure and then more so as you unpack the connections and surprisingly juxtaposed imagery inside. (Forgive the awkward simile – I’ve not yet had breakfast.)
For a Porter primer (har har), I suggest his 1997 collection Dragons in Their Pleasant Palaces, which was how I discovered him when I was studying at Exeter. He has one line, “a dream’s imagination’s ambulance,” which has haunted me for years; I’m confident that you’ll find something similar in any of his works.