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Chris Wallace-Crabbe Shortlisted for Kenneth Slessor Prize

Thursday, 28 Feb 2019

NSW Premier's Shortlist Sticker We're overjoyed to share the news that Chris Wallace-Crabbe has been shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry in the NSW Premier's Literature Awards for his recent collection, Rondo!

 The judges said: '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.'

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have a proud history, both in celebrating achievement by Australian writers and in helping to establish values and standards in Australian literature. 2019 marks the 40 year anniversary of the Awards, and the winners will be announced on Monday 29 April 2019. The Kenneth Slessor Prize ($30,000) is offered to a poet for a book of collected poems or for a single poem of substantial length published in book form.

Read more about the awards and see the full shortlist here.

Chris Wallace-Crabbe’s Rondo harvests a decade’s worth of new writing by one of Australia’s foremost poets. It paints a vivid portrait of eucalypt Australia’s current position in an rapidly changing world. The poet asks for fresh meanings from Gallipoli and Scotland, from physics and from ‘Art’s porous auditorium’, where poetry can still be heard. ‘The words are only the words,’ he writes, ‘which is more or less everything.’

Critic Eric Ormsby dubbed Wallace-Crabbe a ‘genial smuggler of surprises’: ‘his uncommon affability, even when treating the gravest subjects, leaves the reader unprepared for his sudden luxuriance of phrase.’ (TLS)

Congratulations, Chris! A well deserved nomination.


Photo of Chris Wallace-Crabbe Chris Wallace-Crabbe is a leading Australian poet and essayist, with a special interest in the visual arts. He has published more than twenty collections of poetry, including Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw (Carcanet) and Afternoon in the Central Nervous System (Braziller, NY). His New and Selected Poems was published by Carcanet in 2013. The son of a pianist and a journalist, he was raised ‘to be interested in everything’. He is a Professor Emeritus at Melbourne University, and has held posts at Harvard and Ca’ Foscari, Venice. He received the Dublin Prize for Arts and Sciences in 1987, the Philip Hodgins Prize for Literature in 2002, and in 2011 the Order of Australia.




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