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Chris Wallace-Crabbe

In their own words

Recorded 1969

Chris Wallace-Crabbe
Audio: 2 minutes

I have a kind of artificial division of labour. I almost never write in my study at the university. My writing is nearly all early morning or late at night at home, conceived in the head as I walk. I walk an enormous amount, walk around the suburbs and things like that, and things come in my head when I’m walking, largely because I find it very hard to concentrate unless my body is active. Perhaps this is a result of my obsession with sport, which I regard as a kind of activity in which the dichotomy between soul and body gets relaxed, a kind of activity in which I find release. I find it very hard, indeed I envy painters and sculptors very much because they have a physical activity which corresponds to the production of their art, whereas poets can only sit there and write, and this I find difficult. I get up and pace and dance and walk around and go for long walks, just as a way to release myself.

I find my poetry can begin in any one of a host of ways. I suppose much more when I was young it came just from lines in the head, rhythms, almost you might say, melodies. Now it comes in a variety of ways but ideas play a much larger part now. Seldom do I find poems coming immediately out of a direct experience. It takes a prolonged period, for the most part, of contemplation wherein one experience feeds into other experiences, forms of language, metaphors, ideas coming from quite different areas, until the whole conception becomes dense enough to produce a poem. I find if I try and write poems immediately out of some intense emotional experience, it’s odds on they’ll be merely subjective or private or rhetorical. I need to find something that produces enough density to create a poem that works and not just something for the scrapbook.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Chris Wallace-Crabbe is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Related people

Chris Wallace-Crabbe AM

Related information

Kristin Headlam with Chris Wallace-Crabbe video: 3 minutes 9 seconds
Kristin Headlam with Chris Wallace-Crabbe video: 3 minutes 9 seconds
Kristin Headlam with Chris Wallace-Crabbe video: 3 minutes 9 seconds
Kristin Headlam with Chris Wallace-Crabbe video: 3 minutes 9 seconds

Kristin Headlam with Chris Wallace-Crabbe

'Poetry, painting and princesses'

Portrait story

Artist Kristin Headlam and poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe discuss their art.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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