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Francis Webb Biography

(1925–73), A Drum for Ben Boyd, Leichardt in Theatre, Birthday, Socrates and Other Poems

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robert Penn Warren Biography to Kenneth White Biography

Australian poet, born in Adelaide, educated at Sydney University. Webb later moved to Canada, then to England where he suffered his first mental breakdown. His subsequent attempts to overcome schizophrenia and to resolve questions of identity are reflected in many of his poems in which, with his combination of surrealist imagery and religious intensity, he created powerful lyrical effects. A Drum for Ben Boyd (1948) is a sequence of linked poems in which a merchant adventurer is celebrated; Leichardt in Theatre (1948) focused on an eccentric explorer and his spiritual search. The title poem in Birthday (1953) is a verse-drama about the final days of Adolf Hitler in the Berlin bunker; another poem deals with Francis of Assisi. In his later poetry, Webb explores the role of the artist and considers his own experiences as a psychiatric patient. Socrates and Other Poems (1961) and The Ghost of Cock Walk (1964) contain some of his most innovative and eloquent work. His Collected Poems (1969) assured his reputation. Webb considerably influenced the development of Australian poetry during the 1960s and 1970s.

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