And in the realm of women poets who got serious late in life then kicked poetic butt – Happy Birthday Anne Porter! Anne published her first collection, An Altogether Different Language, in 1994, when she was 83 years old. The collection was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Today is the birthday of poet Anne Porter (books by this author), née Channing. She was born in Sherborn, Massachusetts, in 1911. When she was 16, she met artist Fairfield Porter, and they were married by the time she was 20. She had been writing poetry since she was seven, but now, as a busy mother of five, she didn’t have much time for her own pursuits. The choir and women’s group at the Methodist church were her only social outlets, apart from playing hostess to her husband’s artist friends. Sometimes she modeled for her husband’s paintings, but they weren’t portraits of her; she compared the experience to being an apple in a still life.
When her Fairfield Porter died in 1975, Anne lived with her daughter Elizabeth, and then on her own after her daughter married. Porter felt alone and vulnerable in the quiet empty house, and fell down the stairs twice. She knew she couldn’t live on her own any longer, and was all set to move into an assisted-living facility when her daughter and son-in-law invited her to move in with them. They built an addition to their house just for her, with vaulted ceilings like a cathedral. It was there, at a modest desk surrounded by her late husband’s paintings, that she began to devote more time to her poetry. She collected bits of it on whatever scrap of paper she found lying around, and turned it over and around in her mind, and only when it was nearly complete did she sit down at her old typewriter and commit it to the page.