Farewell For Poet Whose Mourners Celebrate Her Generous Love Of Life
Monday December 15, 2008
WHEN Dorothy Porter was first having treatment for cancer four years ago she wrote a poem called Charles Baudelaire's Grave. Its first line reads: How do you bury poet?An answer of sorts came yesterday at the Springvale Botanical Cemetery when several hundred people farewelled Porter, who died last Wednesday at the age of 54, with a mixture of tears, laughter, joy and utter bewilderment at the loss of someone so spirited, so generous and so brilliant.The life of the author of The Monkey's Mask, El Dorado and several other verse novels and collections of poetry was celebrated with a mixture of Jewish prayer, verse, song and recollection. Among the mourners were Porter's parents and two sisters, a host of writers including Helen Garner, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Peter Rose and John Clarke, and many old friends.Porter was known as Dot and everyone agreed that she would have relished the occasion - being the centre of attention. "She would have loved this," her partner, novelist Andrea Goldsmith, told the throng. Porter's first poem, Survivor of an Auto da Fe, was written when she was 17; her last, View from 417, two weeks before her death, early one morning as she looked out her hospital window. Born and educated in Sydney, Porter always said she moved to Melbourne for love; Goldsmith read that final poem and several others in tribute.When her cancer returned a few months ago, Porter didn't let her chemotherapy impede her writing the lyrics for Tim Finn's rock opera, January, which was workshopped on the day she went into hospital.Finn sang two of the songs yesterday: Gutsy Girl and My Sweet Blue: Where do I go?/ I go off the planet to my own lovely world/ where the only colour is blue/ oh blue, my sweet blue.Jean Porter praised the courage of her daughter, "who told me the past few months had been the worst of her life".Poet Judith Beveridge said Porter had been her "dearest friend for 28 years" and to be with her was to be in charmed company. She recalled when they went to Colombia together and were flying into Medellin, the city renowned for its drug cartels and kidnappings.The plane had to abort a landing and both of them were nervous. But Beveridge was more concerned about a possible kidnapping. "Look, Jude," Porter said in her positive fashion, "you can always talk your way out of being kidnapped."In January, the ABC will screen the film version of Jonathan Mills' short opera The Eternity Man, for which Porter wrote the libretto. Goldsmith yesterday read its final, appropriate lines: Oh my valley of briny vision/ Take me in your salty arms/ Let my own soul's tide/ rise and flood/ And rejoice./ No angel is ever/ Unadorned/ To go before/ (Her) maker.
© 2008 The Age