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2019 - Shortlisted
Chris Wallace-Crabbe has been an influential figure ever since his first book, The Music of Division, appeared in 1959, and in the 1960s and 1970s he and his colleagues in the Melbourne University English Department dominated the Australian poetry scene. Now, in his eighties, his poetic energy is undiminished — his admirers will recognise the tramlines, birds, flowers, addresses from the Melway street directory, and the knowing but apposite literary references that fill his new collection.
His strength, as always, lies in the use of language, shifting seamlessly from the most elevated literary diction to heavily Australian-accented colloquial idiom, often within the same poem. Yet he is also, as always, fascinated by literary technique. In Rondo he attempts both free verse and a prose poem as well as quatrains, complex rhymed forms and even a villanelle. All of this is achieved to a standard equal to any of his earlier work.