Friday, March 2, 2018

The Living Dead

~Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

My at-last lover

Your face sleeps
in the early morning
         of my slack arm

you're my at-last sound asleep
you're my cat
     with a dreaming paw
         flexing in my hand

you're my raw storm
     gorgeously spent

and what am I, darling?

and full of trapped bubbles
     like honeycomb.

– Dorothy Porter (1954-2008)

Dorothy Porter (Dorothy Featherstone Porter in her early publications) was very much a Sydney poet, though she later moved to Melbourne. I'm sharing this beautiful love poem with you today specifically because tomorrow is the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. I quote Wikipedia:

"Porter was an open lesbian and in 1993 moved to Melbourne to be with her partner, fellow writer Andrea Goldsmith. The couple were coincidentally both shortlisted in the 2003 Miles Franklin Award for literature. In 2009, Porter was posthumously recognised by the website as one of the most influential gay and lesbian Australians.
Porter was a self-described pagan, committed to pagan principles of courage, stoicism and commitment to the earth and beauty."

A few nights ago I watched the Australian TV movie, "Riot". It chronicles the beginnings of the Mardi Gras, and the horrendous injustices and abuses which both preceded and characterised that first Mardi Gras, 40 years ago. It's been a long, hard battle – one which I, as a straight woman, have not personally had to fight – but gay pride has become more and more celebrated, particularly at this now world-famous event in which many straight people also participate in support. (This year Cher will be guest of honour.) And times have changed. Recently the Australian public supported the right of gay couples to marry, and that right became law.

So here is a poem celebrating love, a poem which I'm sure cannot fail to move us all – written by a gay woman who was known for her courage and authenticity as well as her wonderful, often innovative poetry.

A major Australian poet, she won a number of literary awards, wrote several highly successful verse novels as well as other poetry, was a feisty performer of her work at spoken word events, wrote opera libretti, and was collaborating with Tim Finn at the time of her death, writing lyrics which he put to music. She died far too young, from breast cancer. She is not forgotten!

I featured her once before, a couple of years back, with another yummy love poem. Click here.

There is a detailed biography, as well as a large collection of her poems, at Australian Poetry Library. She wrote on many other topics as well. Do have a read!

Her books are available at her Amazon page. (I own copies of most of them, either in paperback or as ebooks, and return to them time and again.)

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).

This photo of Dorothy Porter is made available for download by Pan Macmillan.


  1. Rosemary, I love this poem and poet. It is sad she was taken early. She will be remembered through her works and the legacy she left behind in her work and her work for gay rights. Thanks so much for this. Her poem made me feel happy. I remember looking at the face of a sleeping loved one, and feeling those bubbles.

  2. I loved the poem and the poet. Thank you so much Rosemary.

  3. Another wonderful poem and poet...I enjoyed learning more about Dorothy Porter...thank you Rosemary!

  4. Rosemary, what a warm and wonderful love poem. Thank you for sharing it and also for the information about the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to be celebrated in Sydney. I am sure it will be wonderfully celebrated this year now that gay couples are now able to marry in Australia. Kudos to Australia for this, at the time when the US (due to the Presidency) seems to take away rights again from the GLBT community - though the right to marry still exists. I will seek out more work from this poet whose life was way too short.

  5. What better than honeycomb! That is sweet ecstasy.

  6. I also Love that image of 'honeycomb' that speaks volumes here. Thanks for the share Rosemary.

  7. Thanks Rosemary for sharing this sweet, lovely poem. It made me smile and think of times I've experienced those honeycomb bubbles. I am sorry Dorothy's life ended too soon and I admire the courage she had in being an activist for gay and lesbian political and social reform.

  8. Wonderful poem ... and the introduction to its writer is lovely. Words like courage and authenticity and equality and respect and inclusion and love and justice and gay pride - are beautiful - and celebrate our humanity. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who - by their words and deeds - uplift us all.

  9. Looking at your lover asleep is a most beautiful sight. Both articles about Dorothy are very fitting and of course sad as her life and writing ended too soon. Thanks Rosemary for the write up.

  10. Thank you, Rosemary, for sharing the work of this courageous poet.

  11. Thank you all for the comments. I'm so glad to share this poem and poet with you, and delighted by your responses.

  12. I love this poem, Rosemary! Thanks so much for the information about her life.


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