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Poems 1958-1985
Clive James

Jacket design by Craig Dodd

Dustjacket synopsis:

"Of his thirty years writing verse, Clive James spent the first ten producing lyrical poems, of which a number have been preserved in this volume. Here too are parodies, imitations and lampoons (fore-runners of his mock epics) most of which were first published under the name of Edward Pygge. Also included are a section of 'Verse Letters and Occasional Verse' and James's verse diaries. 'An Address to the Nation' and 'Poem of the Year'."




The Book of My Enemy-Has Been Remaindered
Sack Artist
The Supreme Farewell of Handkerchiefs
A Gesture towards j ames J oyce
Thoughts on Feeling Carbon-Dated
johnny Weissmuller Dead in Acapulco
Reflections on a Cardboard Box
The Philosophical Phallus
Egon Friedell's Heroic Death
Homage to Rafinesque
Will Those Responsible Come Forward?
Echo Echo Echo
The Anchor of the Szrt'us
The Ferry Token
A Valediction for Philip Larkin


From Robert Lowell's Notebook
Once Smitten, Twice Smitten
Adrian Henri Wants to Write Poems
R. S. Thomas at Altitude
Edward Estlin Cummings Dead
John Wain's Letters to Five More Artists
Symptoms of Self-Regard
Richard Wilbur's Faberge Egg Factory
Godfrey in Paradise
The Wasted Land
After Such Knowledge
What About You? asks Kingsley Amis
The North Window


To Russell Davies: a letter from Cardiff
To Martin Amis: a letter from Indianapolis
To Pete Atkin: a letter from Paris
To Prue Shaw: a letter from Cambridge
To Tom Stoppard: a letter from London
To Peter Porter: a letter to Sydney
To Michael Frayn: a letter from Leningrad
To Craig Raine: a letter from Biarritz
To Gore Vidal at Fifty
To Anthony Thwaite at Fifty


As I See You
The Deep Six
Berowra Waters, New South Wales
The Morning from Cremorne, Sydney Harbour
The Lady in Mourning at Camelot
Four Poems about Porpoises
The Banishment
The Crying Need for Snow
The Glass Museum
The Young Australian Rider, P. G. Burman
A Line and a Theme from Noam Chomsky
The Outgoing Administration
Neither One Thing Nor the Other
Le Cirque imaginat're at Riverside Studios


An Address to the Nation
Poem of the Year

First Paragraph from the Introduction

During thirty years of writing verse, one hopes to have improved, but can only have done so by becoming more self- critical, a development which tends to winnow the crop in advance of the harvest. Therefore I am pleased to find some things asking to be kept even from early on. If it does not sound too grand to say that there was an initial phase, it was the ten-year period in which I wrote what were meant to be lyric poems. These mainly went into university magazines and newspapers either in Sydney or in Cambridge, and in the pages of those publications most of them demand to lie undisturbed. Though I never had what it took to be obscure, clarity still had to be worked for. Local outbreaks of straightforwardness from the early part of this struggle are here preserved under the title 'Earlier Verse', not because I want to disown them but because even at their most transparent they try so hard to disown me. To write in his own voice is every poet's object, and my voice, I have since realised, was the prosaic one I speak with. It was so close to hand that it took an age to reach.

A big help along the way was a second phase, not represented here. At Cambridge I began writing song lyrics for the music of my fellow undergraduate, Pete Atkin. In the next eight years we published half a dozen record albums. I never wrote from a surer instinct. But there came a point, while I was still writing song lyrics, when another instinct awkwardly insisted that I was not yet quite through with writing verse. The awkwardness lay in the fact that the new urge was theatrical. Having my song lyrics performed had given me a taste for going public. My mock epic poem Peregrine Prykke's Pilgrimage was the brazen outcome. Eventually it had three successors, and all four mock epics might one day appear together in a single volume suitably annotated, but here I need only say that before attempting that first, long, parodic poem-for-performance I wrote a number of isolated parodies, imitations and lampoons, most of which were first published under the name of Edward Pygge.

From the Jonathan Cape hardback edition, 1986.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: January 2, 2001.