Monday, September 08, 2008
Few are the writers who pass my bookshelf’s double figures test, but among them, I see when I add his new collection Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw, is Chris Wallace-Crabbe.
‘My particular joke was being healthy’, he writes in ‘A Vocation’, sounding his usual Horatian note, the pursuit of the good life, but with a satisfyingly pinch of self-mockery in the mix too.
I find the eudaemonist view, that ‘Everything is Going to Be All Right’, perhaps the single most difficult to make poetry out of. When I try it, which is not often, nothing comes. Happiness writes white. ‘Tranquillity’, CWC writes in ‘Reading Smoke with Orpheus’, ‘It can be painted, but /it’s very much like reading smoke /or seeing a snake as mobile typography.’ Not that CWC doesn’t take a walk on the dark side too (the political sonnets in his last book, By and Large, took a gloomy view of the Australian body politic and the jiggery-pokery of PoMo academics), though here I sense that shading into a dim but calm crepuscular view of things: ‘Dust in the eye-corners: /inert gases where the soul should reside’. Or:
Because they are also us
judgement sways and falters
old ligaments tightening up,
limping in our long, subjective jogathon
round the desolate park
The Ithaca chapter of Ulysses, you may recall, ends with a dot. Not a full stop, but a dot. CWC’s ‘The Alignments’ is an ode to dots. ‘Why do things /have a line around them?’, the poet remembers his daughter asking. Shades of the Robert Kilroy-Silk gaffe about the Arabs giving European civilisation nothing, boom boom. The poem mentions Klee but not that dot-matrix-master Seurat, who I mention here as someone whose name I’ve always wanted to rhyme with ‘sewer rat’.
As for poetry readings:
Poets on the circuit
are talking out their days
As they won’t get money,
all they need is praise.
Poets on the circuit
have shocks of silver hair.
Yes, they’ll do a reading
more or less anywhere.
This last claim is all too true, evidently, given that CWC is giving a reading in Artlink on Prince’s Avenue, Hull on 18 September at 6pm. So why not come along, you shower of useless lazy so-and-sos.
Finally, I cannot let this post pass without mentioning the line CWC says at readings he has always wanted, but never been able to incorporate in a poem. It is ‘Release the tiny hamster of desire.’