Chris Wallace-Crabbe

(b. 1934)

"All the choir of stars and panoply of heaven / Gaze down on our pygmy web." - from The Universe Looks Down, Chris Wallace-Crabbe

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Select bibliography

  • The Music of Division, Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1959
  • Eight Metropolitan Poems, Adelaide: Australian Letters 1962
  • In Light and Darkness, Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1963
  • The Rebel General, Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1967
  • Where the Wind Came, Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1971
  • Selected Poems, Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1973
  • The Foundations of Joy (Poets of the Month Series), Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1976
  • The Emotions Are Not Skilled Workers, Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1979
  • Six Voices: Contemporary Australian Poets (Ed.), Sydney: Angus & Robertson 1963; Westport: 1979 (American Edition)
  • Clubbing of the Gunfire: 101 Australian War Poems (Ed.), Melbourne: MUP 1984, With Peter Pierce
  • I'm Deadly Serious, Oxford: OUP 1988
  • Sangue è l'acqua, Trans and ed Giovanni Distefano, Abano Terme: Piovan Editore 1989
  • Poetry and Belief, Hobart: University of Tasmania 1990
  • For Crying Out Loud, Oxford: OUP 1990
  • Rungs of Time, Oxford: OUP 1993
  • Selected Poems 1956-1994, Oxford: OUP 1995
  • Whirling, Oxford: OUP 1998
  • The Oxford Literary History of Australia (Associate Ed.), Melbourne: OUP 1998. With Bruce Bennett and Jennifer Strauss
  • The Poems, Carlton: 1998
  • By and Large, Manchester: Carcanet; and Sydney: Brandl & Schlesinger 2001
  • Next, Melbourne: Gungurru Press 2004
  • Imagining Australia: Literature and Culture in the New New World (Ed.), Cambridge, Mass and London: Harvard University Committee on Australian Studies, 2004. With Judith Ryan
  • The Universe Looks Down, Sydney: Brandl & Schlesinger 2005
  • Read It Again, Cambridge: Salt 2005
  • The Flowery Meadow, Melbourne:Electio Editions 2006
  • Then, Melbourne: Gungurru Press, 2006
  • A Line Has Two, Sydney: Ensemble Offspring 2006, With Damien Ricketson
  • The Thing Itself, Warner's Bay, NSW: Picaro Press 2007
  • Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw Manchester: Carcanet Oxford Poets 2008
  • Collected Poems of Gwen Harwood (Ed.), with Greg Kratzmann, Manchester: Carcanet 2009
  • The Domestic Sublime, River Road Press 2010
  • The Amorous Cannibal, Oxford: OUP 1985
Chris Wallace-Crabbe was born in 1934. His father was a journalist and his mother a pianist, and he describes his family tradition as 'military-bohemian Scots'. After leaving school he worked as cadet metallurgist at the Royal Mint, Melbourne, then, at diverse jobs, including six months in the RAAF, before attending the University of Melbourne. Graduating in English and philosophy, he became Lockie Fellow in Australian Literature and Creative Writing, Melbourne University, from1961 to 1963; Over the next decades he became Reader in English, and then held a Personal Chair from 1988. He was Harkness Fellow at Yale University, 1965-67, Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard, 1987-8, and Visiting Professor at the University of Venice, 1973 and 2005. He has given many readings of his poetry around the world.

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.

Chris Wallace-Crabbe's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"Poetry matters, because it distils its native language for the attention of the true reader, one who resembles Sir Walter Raleigh's 'judicious sharp spectator'" - Chris Wallace-Crabbe

"Poetry will not teach us how to live well, but it will incite in us the wish to." - David Constantine

"Poetry is chiefly a matter of gists and piths." - Ezra Pound


1969 Farmer's Poetry Prize, Blood is the Water

1980 Christopher Brennan Award for Literature

1984 Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities

1985 Grace Leven Poetry Prize, for The Amorous Cannibal

1987 Dublin Prize for Arts and Sciences

1992 Human Rights Award for Poetry

1995 The Age Book of the Year Award,

1995 Dinny O'Hearn Poetry Prize, for Selected Poems: 1956-1994

2002 Centenary Medal, For service to Australian society and the humanities in the study of literature and the arts

2002 Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal

2006 Doctor of Letters honoris causa, University of Melbourne

2006 St Michael's Medal

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