An Alphabet of Poets – P is for Porter


 I knew there were infinite possibilities.
The world was catching fire.
Leaves turned one by one to flame
I saw my life clearly, in an instant:
I had travelled by train, the long scarf
of its smoke the colour of your hair.
Once, the conductor turned his head to look at me.
His eyes told me he knew.
I travelled by foot the rest of the way.
Someone else had planned the journey.
Someone knew what my life was for.
I am here now. This is my story.
Lift you head and I will tell it to you.

Pamela Porter (1956 – ) from no ordinary place, Ronsdale Press, 2012

No ordinary writer! Pamela Porter may live quietly with her family and their dogs, cats and horses on a small acreage just outside Victoria but her novels and poems keep making a lot of noise! And yes, she is here now. And these, the novels and poems, are her story!

Her 2005 free-verse novel The Crazy Man was her first run-away success. It won a slew of awards on both sides of the border including a Governor General’s Award. Porter has written six more books since then including another free-verse novel in 2011, I’ll Be Watching, which has been nominated in the B.C. Book Award.s for the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. And now her latest book of poetry, no ordinary place has just been released.

She is no stranger to success in poetry as well. She won the 2010 Vallum Magazine Award for poetry, the 2011 Prism International Poetry Prize, the Pat Lowther Award shortlist, and has been featured on Garison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac.

What a change of fortune! Porter had countless rejections in her first decades as a writer before her first book was published in 2002. I have had the privilege of getting to know her through the active literary community here onVancouver Islandand especially through the Patrick Lane poetry retreats at Honeymoon Bay Lodge on Vancouver Island. She fearlessly explores the heart’s dark and hidden places and brings them to the light with luminous metaphor. She has a gentle way in life and with her words. But in that gentleness is her fierceness; her hopefulness, her generousity.

Here is an excerpt from her poem Astonished Heart first published in prairiefire, Summer 2011:

from Astonished Heart

I lay down at night and wakened
to the darkening of the world.

Beneath a sky of slate I chant
the liturgy of autumn, light
grown weary after its toil
of ripening coaxing
             the myriad blossoms open,
the wheat to turn to gold.

I read the gospel according to the trees.
It says: Give away
             all that you have,
make yourself destitute, bereft,
but first you must become as fire.

This is the first lesson.

From childhood I
the proverbs of rain
and of her sister, grief.
the frail pages stiffened
             from weather:
Grief can drown you.
Rain treturns all things to earth.

This is the second lesson.

Once there was a child,
someone’s daughter.
She folded her grief
           into paper boats,
sent them out on the water

She folded her tears
          into paper birds
and let them fly from her hands
into the rain-dark sky.

The birds had eaten the path
           to her lost father.

from no ordinary place

One Comment

  1. Posted April 25, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Richard, It’s a joy to “meet” Porter here… and a joy to finally have the peace to catch up with your April poets. A labor of love you’ve done here. Huge thanks.

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