Back from The Web
Starting only a few years ago, a strange new process got under way by which poems migrate into the web. If they are protected by an efficient pay-wall like the one at the New Yorker site they generally don’t budge unless someone laboriously transcribes them (with a heavy risk of misprints, alas), but if they are not pinned down then they show up all over the place. When I started to investigate, I soon found that poems had not only migrated, they had been recited aloud, decorated with photographs, etc. Some of the results seemed too good to miss: the readings by the mystery man who calls himself 0’Bedlam, for example, are quietly sonorous and nearly always accurate, although at least once he end-stops what should be a turnover at the end of a stanza. In view of all this flattering effort by others in service of my work, I have started a reverse process by which migrant poems undergo forced repatriation back to this address, bringing their new embellishments with them. As of early 2011, I have an uneasy feeling that this sub-section of the site will grow like no other, especially if I go on finding poems which were written too early to be included in the “Poems by Clive James” pages but which are still out there in cyberspace, neatly positioned in the websites of the magazines that first printed them. And really, when I examine the uneasiness, it isn’t all that unpleasant. Poets like attention. A poet as genuinely brilliant as Wendy Cope might detest the very idea of having her work pirated, but the rest of us are in at least two minds about the prospect of being ravished. Johnny Depp comes swinging lithely aboard and we don’t care what he steals, as long as he observes the line-endings.