Clive James

b. 1939

The poet is a lifer. Anyone who gets into the game will soon start wishing that there was a version of it with lower stakes, but there isn't. - Clive James

Lucretius the Diver

Clive James

Deckard Was A Replicant

Clive James

Where the Sea Meets the Desert

Clive James

Jet Lag in Tokyo

Clive James

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About Clive James

Clive James (b. 1939, Sydney) is well known to UK audiences for work throughout the cultural sphere. His career as a poet has continued alongside work that is, perhaps, more high-profile - he is the author of more than thirty books, a well-known journalist and critic, and a familiar face from television - but his biography includes the literary editorship of his university paper, honorary degrees from the universities of Sydney and East Anglia, and the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal. He has written, however, "I can only wonder, looking back, if my name as a poet might not have made quicker progress had I been less notorious for the other things."

James' poetry shares the range of interest in those "other things." On this recording, for example, there are pieces that draw on the same sardonic humour that characterises his television work, such as 'Bring Me the Sweat of Gabriela Sabatini', and others that turn to the literary strand of his career, as 'A Valediction for Philip Larkin'. This allows for creative misleadings; the Blade Runner reference of 'Deckard Was a Replicant' suggests a poem based on film criticism, but in fact the piece that follows touches on nature, aging, love and art.

The importance of form to James is clear from his frequent use of rhyme and metrical effects, from the strict pentameter of 'Lucretius the Diver' to the deliberate irregularities of 'The Artificial Horizon'. He is also drawn to longer poems, such as 'The Great Wrasse', written for Les Murray's sixtieth birthday, which demands space for its meditations on memory, on the eponymous fish in its reef, on the dedicatee and on "Those new and strange and lovely living things," his poems.

As would be expected from a broadcasting professional, James' delivery is polished, and moves from irony to sincerity with the same ease as his writing. It allows its audience to hear the poet's commitment to his assertion that a poem "ought to be something that could be recited and performed: something entertaining in the first instance." The New York Times wrote that James "knows how to write poems worth reading"; this recording shows that he also knows how to read poems worth writing.

These recordings are taken from The Artificial Horizon: Poems from The Book of my Enemy read by Clive James, available from Macmillan Digital Audio.

Additional material and useful links

Aldeburgh Backchat 5

Listen to a fascinating behind the scenes interview with Clive James at the 2008 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.

Clive James on Florence

Clive James delivers a lecture on Florence, the city he calls his third university, and the place that opened his mind to European culture and history.


2003 Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal

2003 Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal

Selected bibliography

Angels over Elsinore, Picador 2008

Opal Sunset: Selected Poems 1958-2008, Norton 2008

Cultural Amnesia, Norton 2007

North Face of Soho, Picador 2006

The Meaning of Recognition, Picador 2005

As of this Writing, Norton 2003

The Book of My Enemy, Picador 2003


Always Unreliable, Picador 2001

Even As We Speak, Picador 2001

Reliable Essays, Picador 2001

The Silver Castle, Jonathan Cape 1996

Snakecharmers in Texas: essays 1980-87, Jonathan Cape...

Other Passports: poems 1958-1985, Picador 1986


Flying Visits: Postcards from the Observer 1976-83,...

Glued to the Box: television criticism from the Observer...

Poem of the Year, Jonathan Cape 1983

From the Land of Shadows, Jonathan Cape 1982

The Crystal Bucket: television criticism from the...

Charles Charming's Challenges on the Pathway to the...

Unreliable Memoirs, Jonathan Cape 1980

At the Pillars of Hercules, Faber and Faber 1979

Visions Before Midnight: television criticism from the...

Fan-mail: seven verse letters, Faber and Faber 1977

Britannia Bright's Bewilderment in the Wilderness of...

Peregrine Prykke's Pilgrimage Through the London...

The Fate of Felicity Fark in the Land of the Media : a...

The Metropolitan Critic, Faber and Faber 1974

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