Wallace-Crabbe is an important figure in Australian poetry, as a poet, a critic and as an advocate for poetry. Since his first book, The Music of Division, appeared in 1959, he has published more than twenty two volumes. In the eighties he began to publish with OUP, with The Amorous Cannibal. Wallace-Crabbe's poetry ranges from the syllogistic poems of his earlier career to the more public and political poems of his later career. Frequently set in Melbourne, the poems explore the dissolution of modern life and an ongoing search for joy that he believes all humans experience. The critic Ron Sharp says of Wallace-Crabbe's Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw: 'This sometimes comic, sometimes irreverent streak in Wallace-Crabbe is one of the great spurs to his imagination, and it extends to his unending delight in the antic accidents and felicities of the language itself." Overall his work offers a wry urbanity, 'playing with shifts of register, from the pungent demotic to sometimes noble speech', as Michael Sharkey observes, as well as a finely tuned sense of 'the absurdity of politics, deluded leaders and idealists, and the saving grace of comedy".
Chris Wallace-Crabbe chairs Australian Poetry Limited in The Wheeler Centre, Melbourne, Victoria. Since his retirement he has been Professor Emeritus in The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne. He has written a novel, published literary criticism, essays and artists' books in collaboration with the painter Bruno Levi, and edited many anthologies of essays and poetry.
This recording was made in Melbourne in January 2009 by Carol Jenkins for River Road Press, showing Wallace-Crabbe in fine form with a clear and nuanced reading that gives the poems room to do their work.
In 2011, Chris Wallace-Crabbe was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the arts as as a leading poet, critic and educator, and as an ambassador and advocate for the humanities both nationally and internationally, and through support for emerging writers.