The Simple Excellence of Peter Porter

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When I first read him more than forty years ago, I thought Peter Porter was the same age as he is now. Impressed by his evident conviction that the modern world was essentially a Technicolor version of one of those Dürer woodcuts in which the knightly rider was flanked by death and the Devil in his journey through a landscape ravaged by war and plague, I pictured the agonised artist as a gaunt, white-bearded figure hunched under a velvet cap, setting down his long-pondered apocalyptic visions by candlelight. Not that his poems creaked: indeed they hurtled. But, however long their rhythmic breath and legato their line, they still sounded like the last gasps of a sage, and all the sages I had ever heard of had whiskers on them.

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