Chris Wallace Crabbe

Chris Wallace-Crabbe AM is the author of more than twenty collections of poetry. His most recent books of verse include The Universe Looks Down (2005), and Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw (2008). He is Professor Emeritus in Culture and Communication at Melbourne University. Also a public speaker and commentator on the visual arts, he specialises in ...

The legendary Dylan has now been dead for a century and his fumy glitter has probably faded a little. But then, how far do any poets these days really have glamour to show for themselves, no matter how hard they drink? Very few, in the Anglophone world at least: there’s nobody around like Wales’s roaring boy.

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What you say
about poetry
could very well
be stone-
cold factual

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It’s the stale argument once again
of course, old verbal horse,
about that ethnic fairy land
and all the dark-brown banksia men

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Simonides of Ceos is said to have declared that ‘Painting is mute poetry, poetry a speaking picture.’ All of us know something of what he means, about our thirst for information from the arts: and, if you like, our scrabbling for the visible within a text. One half of his mirrored pronouncement is verified by those people who, in an art museum, hurry to the cura ...

First, I will bore you with some Chris Wallace-Crabbe statistics. Born in 1934, he has thirty-three ‘new’ poems in his New and Selected Poems, which is an average of about seven poems a year since his last volume, Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw (2008). That is a lot of poems for the second half ...

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State governors hold a curious role across Australia, one that will be called into question when – one of these fine days, but none too soon – our nation becomes a republic. There will be lots of fine-tuning to be done before that, from the roles of Her Majesty’s representatives here all the way down to Royal Park, Royal Melbourne Golf Club, and the RACV. But this book is the biography of a state governor, one who was also an influential minister of religion, among other things. Above all, he was Master of Ormond College, at Melbourne University.

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Empty for years, the house can tell us nothing.
Even though it is a maisonette, ostensibly half of a pair.
The other half is normal, inhabited, has a real dog.
Rubbish gathers here, junk mail overfills the letterbox and droops when rain makes it sodden.

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Those who write about poetry these days don’t go in much for lightness. More often their solemnity springs from the need to score research points or from their front-line positions in gang wars. If only the verbal art could have a critic who trod as lightly as the epigrams of Laurie Duggan or the juxtapositional poems of Jennifer Maiden. But wishes are not horses, and we must be grateful for what we’ve got. Recently to hand is an agreeably jaunty book of essays from the Oxford poet John Fuller. He certainly likes to keep it light and clear: pedagogical in the gentlest way. As critic he reads hard, but writes soft: a close reader with a free rein, we might say. And he knows that any modern poem is, metaphorically, a hybrid between layered onion and head of broccoli.

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Apart from those
occasional wrinkled socks
you are aristocratically pallid

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