For a woman whose famed writing career took her to live in such places as Chicago, New York, Denver, Mexico, and much of Europe, and who rubbed elbows with the likes of Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, Frida Kahlo, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, and Robert Penn Warren, it is a shock to find Katherine Anne Porter’s final resting place is a country cemetery in the middle of Texas. Tiny Indian Creek Cemetery is found in the wide-open spaces where country roads wind their way for miles without accommodating more than the occasional pick-up truck, where a ranch home dots the countryside here and there, and where cattle graze behind barbed wire fences in rocky pastures. Katherine Anne Porter’s own story is, indeed, as long and twisting as the country roads in Texas and as achingly poignant as the acclaimed stories she herself wrote.

Indian Creek, Texas, almost a ghost town now and hardly a thriving township in the best of times, is the birthplace of writer Katherine Anne Porter, born Callie Russell Porter (May 15, 1890). Celebrated as the author of critically acclaimed short stories, novels, and essays as well as other writings, Porter was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships in the 1930s and won both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for her The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, published the year before. During the 1960s, she was nominated five times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Porter’s early life was fraught with tragedy. Her mother Mary Alice Jones Porter died when Callie was almost two years old. Unable to cope, her father Harrison Boone Porter moved with all four of his children to Kyle, Texas, to his mother’s home.  Having given the children nine years of a stern but loving upbringing, Callie’s beloved grandmother died. From that point on the family lived in various places in Texas and Louisiana, sometimes with family, sometimes alone. When Callie was sixteen, she married, but divorced three years later, in the process legally changing her name to Katherine Anne Porter in honor of her grandmother.  She was to marry four more times during her lifetime, none of the marriages long successful.

Although interested in writing as a child—in later years telling an interviewer with The Paris Review she had at age thirteen read and memorized Shakespearean sonnets and had been an avid reader (Davis, An Interview)—Porter began professionally writing, largely on newspapers in Chicago, Ft. Worth, and later for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Darlene Harbour Unrue discusses in her essay titled “A newly discovered children’s story by Katherine Anne Porter: foretelling the mature canon” why Porter did not want to admit the full extent of her newspaper experience and concede its importance to her writing preparation because she had asserted “that she had published no fiction prior to the appearance of her story ‘Maria Concepcion’ in 1922 because she refused to allow any of her stories or novels to appear in print unless they met her exacting standard”(The Mississippi Quarterly, Vol. 62, Issue 1-2). In fact, Unrue believes Porter did not want to admit she had published children’s stories in Texas newspapers during her 1916 and 1917 hospitalization for tuberculosis in Texas sanitoria and ruin her assertion that all her writing preparation had been otherwise. (Ibid.)  

By 1919, Porter was living in Greenwich Village, New York writing in whatever capacity she could to include writing advertising for movies and retelling fairytales for children. From New York, she went to Mexico for a while before returning. For some time, she moved between Mexico and New York, publishing “Maria Concepcion” in 1922. In 1930, she published her first collection of short stories, Flowering Judas, a book containing seven short stories. This collection drew significant literary acclaim and gave her a solid place in the literary world. Porter continued traveling, living and working in various places. In the years that followed, Katherine Anne Porter’s literary reputation continued to grow. “’This thing between me and my writing is the strongest bond I have ever had—stronger than any bond or any engagement with any human being or with any other work I’ve ever done,’ she told the Paris Review about her work.” (as qtd. in La Grassa, Jennifer, “Katherine Anne Porter is born.”) Some of her other most important works are as follows:

  • Katherine Anne Porter’s French Song book 1933
  • Flowering Judas and Other Stories (reissued collection that added four additional stories) 1935
  • Hacienda (short novel) 1934
  • Noon Wine (short novel) 1937
  • Pale Horse, Pale Rider (collection of three short novels) 1939
  • Leaning Tower and Other Stories 1944
  • The Days Before (collection of essays) 1952
  • The Old Order (collection of short stories) 1955
  • Ship of Fools (Novel) 1962
  • The Collected Short Stories of Katherine Anne Porter 1964
  • The Collected Essays and Occasional Writing of Katherine Anne Porter 1970
  • The Never-Ending Wrong, nonfiction book concerning the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti 1977

Many of Porter’s literary works reflect her Texas background and culture. This is true in particular of the three short novels collected in Pale Horse, Pale Rider. The setting of “Noon Wine” is “a small south Texas farm from 1896 to 1905,” that “actually takes place on the farm near Kyle where Porter grew up. Mountain City and Buda are mentioned specifically….”. (“Beyond the Pale,” 28.)

Katherine Anne Porter returned to Texas many times. She often taught, lectured, or served as writer-in-residence at colleges and universities across the United States. Late in the 1950s, she delivered a lecture at the University of Texas and discussed the possibility of having her literary papers housed there, but misunderstandings abounded, and that proposition fell through. Then, in 1976 Howard Payne University in Brownwood, TX, honored her with a literary symposium. (Graham, Don 79) It is said that while she was there, she revisited nearby Indian Creek and her mother’s grave at Indian Creek Cemetery and decided at that time she would be buried beside her mother. When Katherine Anne died on September 18, 1980, in Silver Spring, Maryland, her ashes were placed in a wooden coffin and were laid to rest beside her mother’s solitary grave. She was home at last.

Works Cited and Bibliography

“Beyond the Pale.” Texas Monthly, vol. 27, no.8, Aug. 1999, p.28. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 5 Jan. 2023.

Davis, Barbara Thompson. “Katherine Anne Porter, The Art of Fiction.” Paris Review 29 (Winter-Spring 1963)>

Graham, Don. “Katherine the great.” Texas Monthly, vol. 25, no. 5, May 1997, pp. 76+. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 5 Jan. 2023

“KATHERINE ANNE PORTER TIMELINE.” Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland. <;

La Grassa, Jennifer. “KATHERINE ANNE PORTER IS BORN.” Globe & Mail (Toronto, Canada), 15 May 2018, p. A2 Gale General OneFile, Accessed 5 Jan. 2023.

Porter, Katherine Anne (1890-1980).” Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale.1998. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 5 Jan. 2023.

Unrue, Darlene Harbour. “A newly discovered children’s story by Katherine Anne Porter: foretelling the mature canon.” The Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 62, no. 1-2, winter-spring 2009, pp. 181+. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 5 Jan. 2023.

4 thoughts on “Literary Texas: KATHERINE ANNE PORTER

  1. Katherine Porter’s life in many ways proves that access to the digital world in no way guarantees a more full filling life. Travel, spending time with people of very different backgrounds and interests; enabled her to experience the world in ways today’s armchair voyeurs can never experience. It’s the difference in sticking one’s toes in the Gulf o Mexico or diving off the coast of Roatan.

    Liked by 1 person

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