Leisure and Grief: The Recent Poetry of Chris Wallace-Crabbe


Among poetic forms, the elegy has best survived the twentieth century's antiformalist thrust. However, as Jahan Ramazani demonstrates in Poetry of Mourning, modern elegy has largely continued because of anti-elegiac impulses, producing a tension between the 'consolatory' effect of traditional elegy and (turning to Freud) a 'melancholic' impulse, whereby the modern elegist 'tends not to achieve but resist consolation, not to override but sustain anger, not to heal but to reopen the wounds of loss' (xi). Chris Wallace-Crabbe demonstrates an elegiac sensibility which, while not melancholic, configures the difficulties of elegy and elegiac poetry in individual ways which further our understanding of the elegiac character of twentieth-century poetry. Like Seamus Heaney, Wallace-Crabbe recognises elegy as maintaining a consolatory power (if diminished) and yet avoids naive or theological solutions. More broadly, Wallace-Crabbe's elegiac poetry is notable for its complex braiding of the comic and the tragic.

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Published 1 October 1996 in Volume 17 No. 4. Subjects: Elegies, Imagery, Pastoral poetry, Poetic techniques.

Cite as: McCooey, David. ‘Leisure and Grief: The Recent Poetry of Chris Wallace-Crabbe.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 17, no. 4, 1996, doi: 10.20314/als.74e15f6732.