Title: Re: Clive James: 'Injury Time'
Post by Kevin Cryan on 15.08.17 at 09:43
August 11 2017
Injury Time review: Clive James turns his attention away from his mortality (http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/books/injury-time-review-clive-james-turns-his-attention-away-from-his-mortality-20170804-gxp676)
|Of Clive James' many employments and vocations since he went to Britain in 1962, the most important has always been poetry. It isn't what has made him famous but it's plainly what he'd most like to be remembered for. |
In the six "extra" years since he received a diagnosis of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, James has been much more attentive to this vocation than he once was – even if his Collected Poems 1958-2015 does run to 560 pages.
Injury Time is a worthy successor to his 2015 collection, Sentenced to Life, and covers much of the same ground, albeit with even greater bemusement at his unexpected and almost embarrassing survival. "The old fraud," I recently heard a friend of his joke with some
As James himself says in Advice to a Young Poet, a prose tailpiece to this book: "If even a few people remember a line or two in a poem you wrote, you're not just getting there, you're there. That's it: and all the greater glory is mere vanity." Conceivably, "a line or two" may be setting the bar a bit low but it's a good criterion against which to evaluate the book which offers it.
read on (http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/books/injury-time-review-clive-james-turns-his-attention-away-from-his-mortality-20170804-gxp676)
Title: Re: Clive James: 'Injury Time'
Post by Revelator on 14.11.17 at 19:44
The TLS reviews Injury Time:
|Continually drawn to music|
“There is no reason to shoot critics as long as they quote you”, writes Clive James in “Letter to a Young Poet”, the essay that concludes this substantial book of poems (which is dedicated to the staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge). James is a sparkling critic, of course, and poets young and old should read his thoughts on the art in Poetry Notebook 2006–2014 (TLS, July 10, 2015). But what of his own verse? After Sentenced to Life, which was very warmly received, he did not expect to publish more: “This is a pretty trick the fates have played / On me, to make me think that I might die / Tomorrow, and then grant me extra time . . .”. So begins the title poem (a sonnet). Although he would doubtless rather not have discovered the fact, elegy suits the gifts of one who rarely strays from the iambic pentameter. The steady drum beat of a funeral march sounds through Injury Time, most powerfully in poems for his family such as “This Coming Winter”, and we know James well enough not to be surprised when he diverts from the cortege towards Fawlty Towers.
There is plenty that is ambitious in this collection, but there is nothing pompous. Sometimes the engine is left idling, however; and the risk for all formalists is the resort to syntactical inversion, or slightly unnatural diction – such as that useful stand-by, “for” (which sounded archaic even in Frost’s “For I have had too much / Of apple-picking”) – to maintain a metre. Nor are a ferociously active mind or the ability to entertain and move us quite enough to make a poem, as Clive James knows. Indeed, he discusses it in one of his best pieces, “Too Many Poets”, which begins:
Too many poets pack a line with thought
But melody refuses to take wing.
It’s not that meaning has been dearly bought:
It has been stifled, by a hankering
For portent, as if music meant too much.
Sidney called this a want of inward touch.
Continually drawn to music, James is especially impressive in a poem on Beethoven’s late quartet, Op. 131, which mimics the quartet’s structure. Part biopic, part personal testament, “The Rest is Silence” repays rereading. As we will return to much of what Clive James has written, not least for the engaging personality, the distinctive voice – humorous, poignant and, naturally, metrical.