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 Take an interstellar tour of Melbourne with one of Australia's best-loved poets

When Dorothy Porter succumbed to breast cancer in late 2008, we lost one of our most innovative contemporary artists. A poet who exploited genre fiction, her two detective-novels-in-verse, The Monkey's Mask and El Dorado, reinvigorated the ancient ground of lyric poetry.

Now Wild Surmise, her 2002 romance-novel-in-verse, a story of love on Earth and other planets, is coming to the Malthouse, as Marion Potts directs a theatrical adaptation starring Jane Montgomery Griffiths.

Not only are Porter’s verse novels formally original, they are also wonderfully evocative portraits of place. Thus, in Monkey’s Mask, she writes of “the spring trees/like Cracker Night sparklers/all over Sydney”, and Brisbane, where “the breeze carries/frangipani from the garden” and “from his long verandah/he can watch the Brisbane River”.

So, as much as Wild Surmise is about two women in love, it's also about Melbourne. Here she is, just down the road from the Time Out HQ in Fitzroy:

Give me Brunswick Street,
and the warm view from Mario’s
on a wild winter’s day
when the street is flooding
with feral human traffic

Or what about further south, on Ackland Street, and the now remodelled Joe’s Bar and Dining Hall:

Chips and hamburgers.
Greasy fingers.
Steamy windows.
Parked by a frothing
St Kilda Beach in winter.

But it’s not all cosy cafes and iconic restaurants. Here’s her take on Elwood beach:

Dogshit on the path.
Its swarming stink
    no heart-hurting phantom.

 Nothing like fresh dogshit
to make the present
    punch back.

 And she obviously knew the trauma of Punt Road well enough:

caught in a grey cloud
    I can’t rain
caught on Punt Road
    I can’t crash
there is oyster grit
    in my eye

As Marion Potts says, "Wild Surmise is an utterly human story", full of "recognisable states and preoccupations – and as familiar as good coffee and the view from our kitchen window."

By Andrew Furhmann   |  

Wild Surmise details

Address
Beckett Theatre
113 Sturt St, Southbank 3006

Telephone 03 9685 5111

Price $26.00 to $58.00

Date 09 Nov 2012-02 Dec 2012

Director: Marion Potts

Cast: Jane Montgomery Griffiths

Malthouse Theatre map

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