Chris Wallace Crabbe

Apart from those
occasional wrinkled socks
you are aristocratically pallid

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The painter and outdoor draughtsman John Wolseley is utterly unusual among artists in this country. Marvellously accomplished yet old-fashioned, he could be seen as an artist who cheekily leapt from  traditional to postmodern without passing through any of the intermediate stages. His deeply natural pictures can’t be categorised easily, for all that they are entrancing. In Lines for Birds, they are reproduced side by side with the comparably responsive poems of Barry Hill.

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The deeply troubled Francis Webb, a magician with language, is still one of the two or three most remarkable poets Australia has produced, if nation-states can be said to produce creative artists. His life proved dark and painful, wherever he was located, but he worshipped language, in parallel with his worship of the Christian trinity ...

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Human Chain by Seamus Heaney & Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O’Driscoll

by
December 2010–January 2011, no. 327

Auden wrote of the mature Herman Melville that he ‘sailed into an extraordinary mildness’. The same sort of thing could be found in Seamus Heaney, even though he has always written with a degree of calm, with hospitable decorum. It was this level-headedness that enabled him to write about sectarian violence in the magisterial Station Island poems (1984) ...

John Brack (1920–99) is one of the most remarkable of Australian painters, and a salient figure in the generation that included Arthur Boyd, Fred Williams, John Perceval, Leonard French, and John Olsen, of whom only two survive. Many viewers would see him as the imagination that made our suburbs viable as art; others have been in two minds about his clarity and perfectionism. Hard edges can make for tough responses.

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Who is, or rather who was, André Gide? I ask this because a distinguished editor warned me, on hearing that I was about to review Robert Dessaix’s enticing new book, that nowadays nobody would remember who Gide was. Ah, the years, the years! It was another story in the time of my youth ...

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When I am rotting patiently where
my eldest, Ben, now lies
And the bright prunus petals are dropping away
faster than flies, ... (read more)

The English critic Terry Eagleton is nothing if not a dasher. Once suspected by many as the kind of postmodern theorist who undermined the category of ‘literature’, he has increasingly hiked into its territory. In The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996), he turned against the kinds of scepticism and virtuality which he saw as demeaning all literary or cultural study. The book certainly made some of his former allies quite cross, not least because it was penned with such rhetorical high spirits. His Marxist foundations, sturdily nourished in a Salford boyhood, remained, however, and were built upon. Yet they are sometimes twinned with residues of Catholic belief, as his recent attack on the atheism of Richard Dawkins has shown, full as it is of residual theology. He can certainly be an odd kettle of fish. In How to Read a Poem, Eagleton takes a broad brush. He remains at home with the traditional texts, the kinds of poems we have long deemed important.

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Memory is actually anxious to be heard.

                                                       A.F. Davies

What a year, and how lucky we are that our country can only play a timid, cringing, subservient role in Iraq – which is not at all to disparage the soldiers we send there. It must be a bastard of a job for those young men, at the accursed interface.

February 6: We fly to Hobart for our Coles Bay holiday, pick up a car and gradually find Sarah and Gordon’s evasive house on its steep hill. The following morning he starts me off with a long stiff walk over the mountain slopes: easier at his age. But I could eat a horse afterwards, were that required.

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Imagining Australia collects nineteen essays from a 2002 conference on Australian literature and culture at Harvard University. Of course, as the proceedings of a conference, it is on occasion hard work. There is something about conferences – the dedication of their audiences, perhaps, or the vulnerability of their speakers – that encourages a somewhat defensive formality. That said, almost every essay in this collection repays a reader’s investment with interest: in describing the history of Australian literary journals; offering a new direction for Australian pastoral poetry; providing surprising perspectives on popular Australian myths; or looking at how contemporary poets use form.

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