New and Selected Poems

New and Selected Poems

by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

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Ranging across various forms and tones, this poetry compilation expounds upon the Australian landscape, and its natural objects and inhabitants. Combining humor and gravity, it ponders the destruction of our planet and the detrimental effects of progress.  See more details below


Ranging across various forms and tones, this poetry compilation expounds upon the Australian landscape, and its natural objects and inhabitants. Combining humor and gravity, it ponders the destruction of our planet and the detrimental effects of progress.

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From the Publisher
"This is poetry of fine technical resource, precise observation, and sly wit."  —Sunday Times

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Carcanet Press, Limited
Publication date:
Oxford Poets series
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

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New and Selected Poems

By Chris Wallace-Crabbe

Carcanet Press Ltd

Copyright © 2013 Chris Wallace-Crabbe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84777-704-1



    Salt on the Tongue

    We just can't do without it, watery friends,
    acrid sodium chloride, the spice of our lives
    adding that Certain Something as a poem does:
    our mineral tang of wry intensification
    used even by the scribeless tribes for money.
    Lacking it, life would be insipid;
    poetry zings on the lolling tongue
      having crept up on you,
    quiet as a glittering lizard
    or the water swelling in at last
      by parched banks.

    Between these angular crystals and
    their dark blue sea we live.

    While Half Asleep

    The muse of failed memory
      takes no hostages,
    her coiffure has long been
      counter-curled by loss;
    she drives you out beyond
      the senior moment
    crumpling the wrappers
      of old familiar names
    (Didn't he surely begin
      with M or with P?)
    and chucking them on the couch-grass.
    a mini-scruple she batters
      and empowers you,
    curt as a parade-ground
      sergeant major
    or the pink-faced, blond
      Latin teacher at school,
    who did however expect you
      to remember
    all the unspoken verbs
      in their conjugations.
    The muse of wilted memory
      will certainly hint
    at the general outlines,
      vague geometry
    of knowledge that ought to be
      sharp as a pencil,
    but leaving it more, then, like
      slippage of dream.
    Who wrote Thingo? you ask
      when you need it,
    only to get the answer
      too bloody late,
    over coffee. Yet she's the one
      coming back up with
    one big crazy
    that shakes the back teeth
      out of your head.
    The muse of lost memory
      will wheel you
    into the whitewashed nursing-home
      called Grief
    and then console you there
      with her smorgasbord
    of all the lost items,
    like those oddball gems
      on Kim's memory tray
    before which, though, she waits
      like a blackamoor page
    for your green, ardent, hopeful

    On the Lawn All Day

    Friday. Takes more than this to interest
    Rhode Island reds mechanically clucking and dipping
    in their ramshackle corner of life.
      Au revoir.

    Dark prunus frames a bodgy bedframe here;
    one poor cupboard tilts over the lawn
    behind intricate heads of smokepink valerian.

    The tumbledown garage is plumfull of chairs,
    reject paintings, exotic bottles, the globe,
    everything from a drumlike pouffe to books

    deeply miscellaneous in cardboard cartons.
    Here are the dregs of sticky liqueurs,
    easel, cushion pile, radio cabinet:

    archaeology of a mind,
    cheek by jowl and higgledy-piggledy
    but rather less dusty now than yesterday.

    The Murano salad bowl glows like coral
    and here's a neon tube, unattached;
    somebody's tennis racquet has no strings.

    A garden's long slope sighs round all such
    reorganisation of a lifetime,
    a raggedy sycamore flapping way above it,

    and that swayed silver gum graceful as any harp.
    Here's a burgundy Peugeot, crammed
    with indescribable rubbish for

    its daily trip to the tip-face, meeting there
    gulls, avid ravens and dust. These boxes and boxes
    provide the punctuation of departure,

    crooked boughs are pumping out crimson apples,
    Blackie still carols from the gingerbread rooftree
    and the chooks peck-peck, like wind-up toys.

    Spranto Lost

    Once on a time
    Time was a language
    Once on a time
    Old everybody spoke
    In god's esperanto

    Once in the language
    They made a lot of bricks
    A bric-a-brac of bricks
    To stack and stick and stack
    Way up to heaven

    A tower in clouds
    Aloud in the cloud
    Stack rattle pop
    And they all could speak
    In god's esperanto

    Not happy, little men,
    Said the god like thunder
    Booming broadly
    Against that babble
    Of people from Babel

    So he broke their language
    Like bits of firewood
    And blew them all away
    Across the desert
    Of differing tongues

    Off now they scattered
    Camelback muleback
    But yearning still for
    The language umbrella

    A Language

    for Jacob Rosenberg

    The summer streets run full of other diction,
    Bright faces, differential skirt-lengths
    And the bare tummies of young girls,
    Which is a curious fashion

    But Yiddish sits in the café on his own
    Mouthing sweet syllables as they fade
    Over the final piece of strudel,
    His coffee gone cold as forgetting.

    An Autumnal

    When I come back to this garden after my death
    will the black walnut tree have been cut down,
    the brick-and-galvo studio made over into flats
    reflecting what will have happened all over town?

    I wonder just what my airy after-self will find
    that the present me could even recognise
    roughly, as being something we lived amid;
    what will confront my hypothetical eyes

    and spiritual vision? Will the bluestone paving
    be there, tangled vines and archaic gingko tree?
    I wonder how my grandkids' generation
    will be getting along: at all familiarly?

    If a posthumous person can view things with horror
    will my airy unself shrink back from the tacky way
    fashion can rot the linework of certitude,
    making more of a mess from townscape every day?

    Will the blackbird's descendant still be pecking, though,
    at our patchy lawn? Parrots will squeal overhead,
    I'm sure. The hedge may still murmur hints of us
    or the corrugated tanks.
      But I'll be dead.

    Reverie of Dora Pamphlet

    When I'm a-snooze in my basket
    all the world's at peace
    (whatever 'world' connotes);
    maybe my basket is all the world
    in dark-time.

    Those bipeds reckon that I dream
    but I don't entirely know
    what they could mean by that.

    In the morning, the two big ones
    sip at their cups of tea
    and I stretch pretty stiffly
    half-ready to jump up
    on their wide bed – if I still can.

    After their morning paper thing
    (whatever that is, really)
    one of them scrambles up
    and lets me out the back
    or, now, their front door

    where I have a welcome pee
    somewhere familiar
    carefully chosen.

    Then I'm back in, safe as houses
    under their kitchen table;
    they have no meat at breakfast-time
    for some creaturely reason.

    Humans are regular animals
    in my long experience:
    they walk me and then go to work –
    after my due biscuits.

    Some days I even
    go in to his lovely office;
    it has difficult stairs, alas,
    but those women spoil me to bits.

    You'll always know me, of course,
    by these perfectly white feet.


Excerpted from New and Selected Poems by Chris Wallace-Crabbe. Copyright © 2013 Chris Wallace-Crabbe. Excerpted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Chris Wallace-Crabbe is professor emeritus at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of The Amorous Cannibal, By and Large, Read It Again, The Universe Looks Down, and Whirling and the editor of Oxford University Press’s Australian Writers and The Oxford Literary History of Australia. He is the chair of the Australian Poetry Limited and the recipient of the Christopher Brennan Award for Literature and the Dublin Prize for Arts and Sciences.

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