Porter, Peter (13 of 18) Authors' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2008-04-29, 2008-05-20, 2008-05-28, 2008-08-15, 2008-08-25, 2009-09-08, 2009-10-07

  • Interviewees

    Porter, Peter, 1929-2010 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    O'Reilly, Sarah (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 13: Describes PP’s introduction to ‘The Group’ mentioning Kate Morrison (daughter of Samuel Eliot Morrison) and Julian Cooper; nature of The Group’s members; founders Peter Redgrove and Philip Hobsbaum (with details of Hobsbaum’s Jewish background, moral sense, favoured and least favourite authors). Mentions Delta, Peter’s literary magazine at Cambridge, his decision to move it to London. Location of early meetings in flat off Edgware Road. Correction of PH’s comments that PP took to The Group ‘like a duck to water’. [07:35] Mentions occasional visits by Ted Hughes. Comments on nature of members (high minded cocoa drinkers). Hobsbaum’s rules about reading poetry in meetings. Going south of river from 1956. Edward Lucie-Smith’s takeover of The Group when Hobsbaum moved from London. What The Group’s had become by the time of its reinvention as The Poetry Workshop. [13:10] PP’s feelings about being accepted into The Group (with reference to Oxbridge background of other members). Deference displayed towards member Martin Bell. PP as author whose poems were most discussed. Appearing on radio thanks to George Macbeth’s BBC job. [15:22] Anecdote about ‘marauding expeditions’ to GS Fraser’s literary soirees. The importance of being in The Group for PP, with description of how PP came to be published. [20:55] Importance of 1962 to PP’s career, mentioning: marriage in 1961 and birth of first daughter in 1962; publication of Penguin Modern Poets, Number 2. Details of PP’s career in advertising until his dismissal in1967. Reasons behind Jannice’s decision to stop working; her advice to PP after his sacking. Being appointed Chief Radio Reviewer of the ‘New Statesman’ by Anthony Thwaite; salary details. Comments on penury. Reference to family holidays in Dorset. Mentions Jannice’s depression, which she drowned in alcohol. Being competitively unhappy. [25:17] Comments that poet’s real life goes on in his head. Comments on separation of life and art. Why PP’s career has been ‘bourgeois’; comments on PP’s colonial background as a point of difference. Difficulty of remembering period 1955-1974. [29:18] Living quietly and trying to avoid being sacked from advertising job in period. Details of PP’s role with comments on advertising in sixties as ‘the last resort of the unemployable’. Mentions literary friends that did well in advertising (Fay Weldon, Edmund Brock). PP’s clients, mentioning British Nylon Spinners. Why PP was sacked from his advertising job [April 1968]. [38:46] Remarks on PP’s ability to write anywhere, and taking up Peter Redgrove’s advice to write in the boss’s time. Anecdote about William Trevor using office facilities to reproduce his novel. Comments on suffering from doubt and disappointment about quality of his writing mentioning Auden’s ‘four categories’. The rewards of writing prose versus poetry, mentioning Salman Rushdie’s financial success. PP’s radio work for BBC and review work for the ‘Observer’. Type of reviewer PP is (versus friend Ian Hamilton). Why PP wrote more kindly reviews. PP’s advice to anyone who wants to be a serious writer (don’t). [54:35] Financial rewards from publishing mentioning: no advance for first three books from Scorpion Press; advances from Oxford University Press and Picador advances. Why poets rarely receive royalties. Remarks on link between poets’ inability to make money out of poetry and the number of writing courses available to the public. Average earning of novelists, with reference to William Trevor, a good writer who has made a lot of money, and explaining how this was achieved. [1:00:23] PP’s hopes for future of his own works. Necessity of judging oneself. Why reading benefits writers [1:03:33] PP’s omnivorous reading. Being a habitual letter writer. Remarks on writing as something you have to do. PP’s distrust of idea of truthfulness in writing. What makes writers happy. Why PP writes poetry. Collections where PP has ‘got it’ (‘Wittgenstein’s Dream’, ‘What I Have Written I Have Written’, ‘Max is Missing’). [1:11:05] PP’s attitude towards idea of family reading his poetry. Enjoying work of poet friends a ‘bonus’. [1:14:49] PP’s attitude towards reviews. Poems PP wished he had written (Auden, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Shakespeare). Difficulty of reviewing a friend badly. Why PP stopped offering quotes for recommendations. [1:19:15] Lists members of The Group PP kept in touch with after it disbanded (George Macbeth, Peter Redgrove, Peggy Gregory, Alan Brownjohn). When PP stopped attending meetings. Wife’s remarks on improvement to PP’s writing since his youth; how age has affected PP as writer (timidity, increasing self-censorship). PP’s interest in religion. Workings of the machinery of religious punishment. Appeal of Christianity. Darwinian aspect of Freudianism. PP’s scepticism of medicinal treatments for mental illness. [1:30:32] PP’s rejection of anti-depressants or stimulants. Mentions Clive James’s drinking pre-1975 to calm himself down. [1:32:06] Why art is an occupation, not a consolation. Remarks on Australian character and history. [1.36.19] Writing as ‘the only genuine innocent form of solitary vice’. What PP has been working on recently (piece for ‘Times Literary Supplement’). PP’s theory about dreaming and dying. Attitude towards meditation. [1:43:05] Writing out of imagination, and reading, when PP began.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Peter Porter, poet.

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