If I had been blessed with a normal career as a poet, there would have been a slim volume every few years. But only very recently has it worked out that way. The Book of My Enemy, collecting everything in verse that I wished to keep up until 2003, was not a slim volume: more of a bran-tub. Several wiser heads warned me against the format. As things happened, it did quite well, holding its own against the Picador hardbacks of that year, and even today its career goes on in paperback. But image counts, and the book looks off-trail, as if it belonged more to show business than to the hallowed art. Since then, three other volumes – Angels Over Elsinore, Opal Sunset and Nefertiti in the Flak Tower – have looked more normal. All these books are on display in this section, together with my poetry book of 2013, which is more off-trail than ever: a verse translation of The Divine Comedy.
When I got sick in 2010, I wrote some poems while I lay in hospital in Cambridge and later in New York — a few went into Nefertiti In The Flak Tower — and I thought that would be it, that my energy would keep on draining away. In fact poems kept coming: enough for a new collection in 2015 called Sentenced To Life, and then another collection, Injury Time, in 2017. Still more poems and fragments of poems assembled and in time coalesced to form The River In The Sky, my epic poem about the mind heading into oblivion. The River In The Sky was published in 2018.
Mine has been a hard career to figure out and I don’t envy those critics who feel that they have to try. But I am very grateful to them. They might have said nothing. What they did say is made available in links to reviews and articles.
New: Poetry in translation
Fin de Fiesta - Ùltimos Poemas (End of the Party - Last Poems) is a selection of 41 of Clive James's poems translated into Spanish with a parallel text in English. The poems were selected and translated by scholar of Spanish baroque poetry Luis Castellvì Laukamp. The poems are late, predominantly written in the last decade of James's life. Though the tone of the collection is predominantly elegiac, with reflections on memory, loss, regrets and the end of life approaching, there are many touches of humour and irony. It was published in April 2021 by Editorial Pre-Textos in Valencia and in Buenos Aires. You can see more about the collection here.