Dorothy Porter, Aus­tralian poet, inspir­a­tion and mentor, has died of cancer aged 54.

Dorothy, I first met you when I was 18. I was a young poet, bright and shiny-eyed, des­perate to impress you. You were my new poetry teacher at the Uni­ver­sity of Tech­no­logy, Sydney, and you asked us all why we wrote. I remember saying, “because I can’t ima­gine not writing”. At the time, I wrote some­thing every day. Most of it was crap. You were writing Akhen­aten back then. You brought in your drafts and we were burned to a crisp with their intensity. I tried to match you. I was being drawn in various dir­ec­tions, by Komninos and his con­crete crazi­ness, by Drusilla Modjeska, who also taught us, with forms like ses­tina dis­covered for the first time and cradled like a demanding lover, by post­mod­ernism and non-narrative mean­der­ings, open-ended deferred meaning. And your sparse­ness and clarity. I came second in a few poetry com­pet­i­tions thanks to your ded­ic­a­tion, helping me work through drafts. And finally, painstak­ingly, came first in one. Thank you.

We lost touch. I became an editor and a journ­alist, saw you occa­sion­ally at poetry gigs. You, appar­ently, moved to Mel­bourne, but I didn’t know that until I saw you at a poetry gig after I’d moved here too. Then I bumped into you on the street one day. You lived around the corner from me, it seemed, in Fen­wick St. We caught up. I was still intim­id­ated by you: I might have been pub­lished and become known in my own right, but you had gone even fur­ther, Monkey’s Mask win­ning awards and then made into a film! My god, what poetry books are made into films these days? I wrote poems about how you intim­id­ated me. What irony…

But I still chatted with you whenever I saw you. Mostly, recently, it’s been at Café Quince, down the road, when I’ve been marking papers and you’ve been reading or writing. We always said hi. I had no idea you were sick. We were never that close. You changed Aus­tralian poetry, Dot. You were too young to die. Thank you for the gifts of your words and your time. I am a better poet because of you. I’m only sorry that I barely write poetry any more. Appar­ently, this is what it’s like not to write…