Anne Porter, born Anne Channing in Sherborn, Massachusetts, in 1911, felt a poetic vocation from early childhood, when her benevolent great-uncle Laurence Channing wrote down the poems she dictated to him. A strong early influence was Emily Dickinson’s poetry, which she discovered in his library. Blessed with a nearly photographic memory, she effortlessly learned the words to thousands of folk songs, carols, and sonnets in several languages. These still influence her poetry, as do Homer, John Keats, Sappho, William Shakespeare, the Christian poet Christopher Smart, and French poetry in general. She studied Greek at the elite Windsor School for girls in Boston, where an inspiring teacher, Florence Waterman, taught that once you have learned the language and read the poetry, you should not translate it, but intuitively understand it.
She married the painter Fairfield Porter (1907-1975) in September, 1932. Feeling that marriage was her “vocation,” she concentrated on caring for Fairfield and five children born over twenty-two years. Her early publications in Poetry focus on children and motherhood.
The Porters rebelled against their staid upbringings by entering the bohemian community later known as the New York School of painters and poets. It included the painters Willem de Kooning, Elaine de Kooning, Larry Rivers, and Jane Freilicher, and the poets John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler. Liberal and idealistic in politics, the Porters at times voted Socialist, and for several years, they rented a room to two black...
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