Dorothy Porter was a poet, verse novelist and librettist. Her first poetry collection LITTLE HOODLUM was published in 1976, the same year as her graduation from Sydney University. It established her as one of Australia’s most exciting writers. From the beginning her poetry was passionate, edgy, punchy and lucid.
Her first verse novel, AKENHATEN was published in 1992 to widespread acclaim. It tells the tale of the notorious pharaoh in his own seductive voice, a compelling story of incest, heresy and megalomania. A new edition of this work was published by Picador in 2008.
Dorothy’s best-known verse novel, THE MONKEY’S MASK was published in 1994. It is a mesmerising crime thriller that follows private investigator, Jill Fitzpatrick as she investigates the disappearance of a young woman. THE MONKEY’S MASK won the Age Poetry Book of the Year and the National Book Council’s Turnbull Fox Phillips Poetry Prize (the Banjo). In England it was named one of the books of the year in the Times. It was adapted for the stage as a multimedia one-woman show, and as a radio play for the ABC. In 2001 a film, based on the book, was released in Australia and around the world. THE MONKEY’S MASK is unique in Australian poetry publishing. It has been reprinted 8 times and is considered an Australian classic.
Dorothy has published a further five collections of verse, and four verse novels including WHAT A PIECE OF WORK which was short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award in 2000. WILD SURMISE—an engrossing duet between two increasingly estranged voices: Alex Leefson, a brilliant, charismatic astronomer, and her angry, neglected husband, Daniel—was short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award in 2003 and won the Adelaide Festival Award in 2004.
In 1996 Dorothy wrote the libretto for a chamber opera, The Ghost Wife, with Jonathan Mills as the composer. Based on a short story by Barbara Baynton, the opera premiered at the 1999 Melbourne International Arts Festival, opened the Sydney Festival in 2001, and played at the Barbican in London, in 2002.
The Eternity Man, another chamber opera, by Dorothy and Jonathan Mills premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2003. Based on the life of Arthur Stace who for almost 40 years roamed the streets of Sydney writing ‘Eternity’ on the footpaths, it was adapted for film, directed by Julien Temple and starring Grant Doyle and Christa Hughes. It premiered with a special Opera House screening at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2008 and was broadcast on the BBC in December 2008 and ABCTV in January 2009.
In July 2005, Warner Records released Before Time Could Change Us, a cycle of songs tracing a love affair from first passion to disilusionment, written by Dorothy Porter for composer Paul Grabowsky and singer Katie Noonan. It won the Aria (Australia’s major music awards) for Best Jazz Album of 2005.
In 2006 Dorothy Porter edited THE BEST AUSTRALIAN POEMS 2006 and in November that year she was a finalist for the Melbourne Prize for Literature.
Dorothy’s last verse novel, EL DORADO, was published by Picador Australia in 2007. It portrays the world of a child serial killer and it is unflinching in its moral exploration of innocence and betrayal. EL DORADO was shortlisted for the Dinny O’Hearn Poetry Prize (Age Book of the Year Award), the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature; the inaugural Prime Minister’s Literary Award, and Best Fiction in the Ned Kelly Awards.
In December 2008, Dorothy Porter died suddenly and unexpectedly from complications associated with breast cancer. She had just completed her new collection of poetry THE BEE HUT (which was published by Black Inc in September 2009) and she was collaborating with Tim Finn on a rock musical,January.
In 2010 Black Inc published LOVE POEMS, a collection of Porter’s most powerful love poetry. THE BEST 100 POEMS OF DORTHY PORTER was published in 2013.
The loss of Dorothy Porter to the Australian literary community is immeasurable, but she has left an immense body of work, with more to come.
- The Best 100 Poems of Dorothy Porter (2013)
- Love Poems (2010)
- On Passion (2010)
- The Bee Hut (2009)
- El Dorado (2007)
- Best Australian Poems 2006 (2006)
- Poems January – August 2004 (2004)
- Wild Surmise (2002)
- Other Worlds: Poems 1997-2001 (2001)
- What a Piece of Work (1999)
- Crete (1996)
- The Monkey’s Mask (1994)
- The Witch Number (1993)
- Akenhaten (1992)
- Rookwood (1991)
- Driving Too Fast (1989)
- Bison (1979)
- Little Hoodlum (1975)
- The Night Parrot ()