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Porter, Dorothy (1954-2008)  
page: 1  2  

Porter also manages to sneak in some scathing satire of the pretensions of Sydney's poetry elite, as Fitzpatrick tracks a missing poet through the words of her poems and the cocktail parties of the intelligentsia:

     Diana warned me
     about poetry readings

     "They're only supposed to read
     for fifteen minutes,
     you'll learn
     Einstein's Theory of Relativity
     firsthand, my dear,
     fifteen minutes can stretch
     like an old rubber band."

The Monkey's Mask was an immediate success, especially delighting audiences. It became The Age Poetry Book of the Year in 1994 and won the National Book Council's Banjo Poetry Prize in 1995. The novel was adapted as a stage play and a film directed by Samantha Lang. The success of The Monkey's Mask enabled Porter to support herself by her writing.

Porter continued to create verse novels, including What a Piece of Work (1999), the anguished story of a psychiatrist gone mad, and Wild Surmise (2002), a lesbian science fiction novel about the exploration of outer space and inner consciousness. Wild Surmise won the Adelaide Festival Awards John Bray Memorial Prize for Poetry in 2004 and became the first Australian book to win the South Australian Premier's Award for Literature and for Poetry.

In April 2007, Porter published another verse novel, El Dorado, a dark and enigmatic thriller about two childhood friends trying to find a suburban child murderer.

During the early 1990s, Porter moved to Melbourne to live with novelist Andrea Goldsmith. The couple supported each other's endeavors and even edited each other's work. In May 2003, they had the unusual distinction of both being shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, one of Australia's most prestigious literary honors.

Porter was a prolific and versatile writer who, in addition to eight books of poetry and five verse novels, wrote libretti for two operas, The Ghost Wife (2000) and The Eternity Man (2003), both by composer Jonathan Mills. She also wrote song lyrics and has contributed to and edited several anthologies.

Porter's work often confronts a wide range of spiritual and political issues, including class, gender, animal rights, and the environment. However, her most heartfelt crusade was in service of the art of poetry itself, and the importance of clarity.

In April 2001, at the Australian Poetry Festival, Porter gave a lecture titled, "Lucidity: The Poetry of Making Sense," in which she spoke of several great poets whose work had been censored, making the point that many of her own works have been making for decades, "To be taken really seriously, to be truly shocking, a poem has to be understood."

When she died on December 8, 2008, of complications arising from breast cancer, she was mourned not only by her close survivors--her partner Andrea Goldsmith, her parents, and her two sisters--but also by the entire Australian arts community.

Tina Gianoulis

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arts >> Overview:  Australian Film

The recent efflorescence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer themes in Australian film must be placed in the context of a film industry that, prior to the 1970s, was characterized by social conservatism and censorship.

literature >> Overview:  Australian and New Zealand Literatures

In the past two decades Australia has come to occupy a leading place in gay and lesbian literature, and New Zealand has recently produced some significant gay and lesbian texts.

literature >> Overview:  Mystery Fiction: Lesbian

Although most lesbian mystery fiction reflects a political stance, the most effective lesbian crime novels have been those that have most enthusiastically embraced the need to entertain the reader.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Lesbian

Since the 1960s, the general trend in lesbian poetry has been collective and political rather than purely aesthetic.

literature >> Bishop, Elizabeth

Widely acknowledged as one of the finest twentieth-century American poets, Elizabeth Bishop encoded a lesbian identity in her poems.

literature >> Duncan, Robert

Robert Duncan wrote a remarkable series of poems that deal directly with the love of men for other men.

literature >> Goldsmith, Andrea

Australian novelist Andrea Goldsmith writes books that reflect her own life and dearest concerns--lesbian relationships, her hometown of Melbourne, Australian Jewish culture, and the inevitable, yet unpredictable, effect of the past upon the future.

literature >> O'Hara, Frank

The influential poet Frank O'Hara wrote works informed by both modern art and the world of urban gay male culture.

literature >> Tsvetaeva, Marina Ivanovna

A lesbian theme runs throughout the works of Marina Tsvetaeva, widely considered one of the four greatest twentieth-century Russian poets.


"Australian Poetry Makes a Comeback." 7:30 Report Australian Broadcasting. Corporation Abc Online (October 22, 1999):

Ball, Magdalena. "Interview with Dorothy Porter."Suite 101 (June 15, 2003):

Gianoulis, Tina. E-mail Interview with Dorothy Porter. March 2007.

Greenlaw, Lavinia. "Akhenaten." New Statesman  128.44 (June 7, 1999): 56.

Kinsella, John. "Dorothy Porter Interview." Thylazine: The Australian Journal of Art, Ethics and Literature 4 (September 2001):

Lucas, Rose. "Planetary Influences." Hecate's Australian Women's Book Review 14.2 (2002):

Minter, Peter. "Poetry's Like Sex! You Can't Fake It: Dorothy Porter Interviewed by Peter Minter." Cordite Poetry and Poetics Review 3 (1998)):

"Passionate Poet." Habitat Australia 29.5 (October 2001): 26. 

Porter, Dorothy. "It's Too Hard to Write Good--I'd Rather Write Bad." Australian Humanities Review (2000):

_____. "Lucidity: The Poetry of Making Sense." Australian Literature Resources (2001):

Raber, Erin. "The Monkey's Mask." Curve 11.6 (October 2001): 17. 

Russell, Sue. "The Monkey's Mask." Lambda Book Report 4.12 (September-October 1995): 38-40.


    Citation Information
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Porter, Dorothy  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated January 1, 2009  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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