The Bee Hut: Poems 2001-2008

Dorothy Porter

The Bee Hut: Poems 2001-2008
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The Bee Hut: Poems 2001-2008

Dorothy Porter

Known for her passionate, sensual and edgy poetry, Dorothy Porter was one of Australia’s truly original writers. She was twice short-listed for Australia’s premier literary award, the Miles Franklin, and her verse novel  The Monkey’s Mask is a modern Australian classic.

The Bee Hut, her fifteenth book, brings together the poems she wrote in the last five years of her life. By turns expansive and intimate, effusive and contemplative, these poems roam widely: there are journeys into history and to sacred places both mythic and deeply personal. As Andrea Goldsmith writes in her preface, Porter’s writing ‘glows and shimmers’ with passionate curiosity and exuberant love of life.

Review

Dorothy Porter often advised braggart speed-readers of her high-octane verse novels to re-read them slowly and allow things to ‘trickle through’. In this final collection, The Bee Hut, her poems carry us just as effortlessly through past and recent history, travels, plague years, smelling tigers, (always) poetry, song lyrics and resistance.

Porter’s technical mastery of old forms made new is on full display: a finely musical tuning of sounds and colours is applied with the precision of Arkley’s blowtorch to produce startlingly compressed poetry. Whether coiling on itself (as in ‘Pleasure’), harrowing the soul (‘The Ninth Hour’), or firing up ice (‘The Foreign Forest’), this is, as always, a voice speaking into six dimensions, which custom cannot stale. Any reading of the last two poems is very tough, though they are well placed. Do not delay to visit the Hut, particularly if you only know Porter’s famous novels. Start with this rich, generous book of sulfurous psalms, and then seek out her earlier collections for a longer look at the killer comet that was Dorothy Featherstone Porter.

Genevieve Tucker authors the literary blog Reeling and Writhing.

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