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New Poem by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

Eyewear is glad to feature a new poem by Chris Wallace-Crabbe, the Australian poetthis chilly Monday in late October.   Wallace-Crabbe (born 6 May 1934) is an Emeritus Professor in The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne.  He was Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University. He is now chair of the Australian Poetry Centre.  His New and Selected will be out from Carcanet in 2011.


       What is it, then, to love the world
     sipping its colour-patched enchantment
  from nub and frond, sepal or wavelet,
   to pierce unutterable blurring
  and perceive things clear?

      To do so will not stop the bombs
        nor silence fatal scripture-freaks.
     Oh, no. Seeing this fretwork patterning
of jacaranda on macadam
is no more than good in itself.

To lounge and think about beauty,
       "the unplumbed salt estranging sea",
    or a spider's wiry legs, twitching,
     only means owning art's eye,
    so there some of us are:

        neither a diplomat nor a killer be -
    a good thing, on the whole -
    but we claim our planetary vote
in flashes or yearnings of
      ostensible peace. And so there.

poem by Chris Wallace-Crabbe


A convincing apologia for art or poetry. Poetry does not change the world in a revolutionary sense, but perceptions are still changed through it.

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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.