Academic journal article Antipodes

"Have You Ever Heard the Havoc of Remembering?" Yet Softly Told

Academic journal article Antipodes

"Have You Ever Heard the Havoc of Remembering?" Yet Softly Told

Article excerpt

POETRY "Have you ever heard the havoc of remember- ing?" Yet softly told.

Chris Wallace-Crabbe. New and Selected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2013. 204 pp. £14.95. ISBN 978-1-90618-807-8

Meeting a poet for the first time through their selected works is, if you'll pardon, akin to sitting down in a cafe with an old stranger. They hold your ear for coffee after coffee. Some poets talk at you. Some confide. Sitting with Christopher Wallace-Crabbe is much like speaking to an old friend. Each poem connects a thread of conversation, sometimes rambling but leaving you in a thrall of natural imagery, philosophy, and raw emotion. These poems do not stand on a pedestal and shout, nor gleam with polish in the shadows. They offer comfort and friendship in the face of the overwhelming mystery of creation.

That is not to say that Wallace-Crabbe does not grasp the technical. In the open- ing poem, "Salt on the Tongue," the poet demonstrates where nature is both play and deathly serious: "We just can't do without it, water y friends, / acrid sodium chloride, the spice of our lives / adding that Certain Something as a poem does:" (3). Salt keeps our cells pumping, keeps us alive. We salt our tongues, a casual decadence. A pleasure and a necessity. One grain that captures many meanings in a dash.

Wallace-Crabbe's selected work is not over-salted, in form nor topic. His language ranges from cheeky yarn to prophecy, from rigid meter to casual. He likes to throw in details in succession, to get at what he means or to provide a textured canvas of objects. At times his rhymes come in earnest, and other times they are like the magician's hands, concealing a subtle move. The sheer number of modes in Wallace-Crabbe's poetry makes the collection open to the pleasure of f lip- ping to a random page. Still, the collection reads best from beginning to end, as the con- versation goes.

"A Wintry Manifesto," perhaps more classically felt in terms of Wallace-Crabbe, was the first poem to pull me in deep. "It was the death of Satan first of all, / The knowledge that earth holds though kingdoms fall" (58), he begins, setting us at the divide between mysticism and secularism. Here is the fear of those that question the existence of God: that all evils wrought on man were wrought by man himself. That we are the sole propri- etors of our fortune, and the development of our civilization: "Whatever danced on needle-points, we knew / That we had forged the world we stumbled through" (58). …

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