Monday, November 30, 2020

Anne Porter*

Anne Porter (1911—2011) had written poetry all her life, although through the busy years of raising a family she had not sought publication. It wasn’t until after the death of her husband ― the painter Fairfield Porter ― in 1975 that she began to consider poetry to be her new vocation.

Connections with significant American artists, and their encouragement, led to the publication of her 1994 collection, An Altogether Different Language, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Porter added 39 new poems to these, for her second book, Living Things: Collected Poems (2006, Zoland Books).

In a 2010 article in the Christian Century, Ellen F. Davis wrote that Porter is a “direct descendant of the psalmists”; she “clarif[ies] what is at stake in the Psalter: nothing less than the possibility of praising God truly.”

Anne Porter passed away just one month before her 100th birthday.


When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they’re cut down
And brought into our houses

When clustered sparks
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet’s message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies
Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Anne Porter: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.