'Like a kookaburra’s laugh, Peter Porter’s poetry is musical but not entirely euphonic. Even in his ‘mature’ poetry we find lines such as, ‘Then, beside the church where a clapped-out pigeon fell / to be picked up by a not-very-poor-looking Italian – was…’ and ‘open the dictionary of discontinuity’. One can barely say these lines, but they were written by a poet who collaborated with many composers and said that the poet should prioritise sound over meaning, ‘follow[ing] the tread of language rather than the thread of thought’. Porter’s moderated mellifluousness was evident early. I only had to read the last stanza from ‘Who Gets the Pope’s Nose?’ once before it was permanently in my head:
And high above Rome in a room with a wireless
The Pope also waits to die.
God is the heat in July
And the iron band of pus tightening in the chest.
Of all God’s miracles, death is the greatest.