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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice short collection, 8 Jan 2009
By 
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Angels Over Elsinore: Collected Verse 2003-2008 (Hardcover)
Besides his literary criticism, novels, autobiography, lyrics and TV work, Clive James has also produced an impressive amount of poetry. It's a field in which he's been toiling for some time, making use of a variety of forms: thus, his previous collection, The Book of My Enemy, contains examples of every style from short, jewel-like, pieces to parodies, lengthy verse letters and mock epics. Since its publication in 2003, he's been putting out new poems on his website, and this new collection contains almost everything he's produced in that period. It's a much slimmer volume than "The Book Of My Enemy", partly because it covers a briefer period, but mainly because he's concentrating here on shorter forms.

Since I find the shorter pieces easier to read, this is a step in the right direction. Apart from that quantitative observation, I don't really know enough about poetry to comment authoritatively - though a review on the dust jacket notes that "The poems here have skip, insights, timing and agreeable passion" (which looks a bit clumsy to me, but the reviewer is doubtless more familiar with poetry than I am). However, I greatly enjoyed reading them, and appreciated the way in which many of them use apparently unpromising ideas (a statement from Donald Rumsfeld, the genitals of the blue whale, a painting) as their inspiration, and make them into something interesting. One of my favourites here is "Museum of the Unmoving Image", a conceit that turns a survey of trite figures of speech into an appeal for renewed vividness. But the most popular is likely to be "Windows Is Shutting Down", which is about - well, just look at that title, and try and guess what a poet could extract from a message which we've seen thousands of times without ever really noticing it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Clive James delights, 16 Feb 2014
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Has no idea before reading these that Clive James was an original poet in addition to his criticism, social commentary and novel writing, and magnum opus of translating Dante. Clever and occasionally funny or wry, he appears to have a natural or bravura mastery of rhyme; and can make you gasp at his wit. But most often these poems are achingly sad, a collection of heart breaking momento moro, and I found reading too many at once was beguiling me into a deep sense of melancholia myself.
Which is why I didn't give 5 stars....because they are simply wonderful but many are desperately sad and I don't always want to be reminded that, fundamentally, so is life.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'I should have thought of this before', 29 Sep 2012
By 
Simon Barrett "Il penseroso" (london, england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Angels Over Elsinore: Collected Verse 2003-2008 (Hardcover)
Yes, he's the thinking man's poet. He'll make you laugh. He'll make you think. He'll probably make you cry. These are nearly all in Opal Sunset, the handy American selection. Like Stevie Smith and John Betjeman, a major Jamesian theme* is death ('Mutabilitie', if you will)

Top picks?
4/ The Australian Suicide Bomber's Heavenly Reward (a rare unrhymed success)
3/ The Nymph Calypso
2/ Yusra
1/ Only Divine

The only other essential CJ piece, IMHO, is Occupation: Housewife. Mutability? These poems will live

* second only to lust - but you probably knew that?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Addendum 30/9/12
To elaborate further (may I?) if CJ has a failing as a poet (some failing!) it's that he's too naked. Most poets can't resist subterfuge - the elliptical, the tease; with Clive you get what you see, a good man doing his best. It may be the inescapable sound of his voice - were ever poems made for declaiming? - but the dazzling, almost over-soigné technique is like an ill-fitting suit of armour through whose chinks we glimpse the Puppet Master saying, Rolf Harris- or Bruce Forsyth-like, 'How did I do?'

Failing? I take it back - this is why we love the man
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Angels Over Elsinore: Collected Verse 2003-2008
Angels Over Elsinore: Collected Verse 2003-2008 by Clive James (Hardcover - 7 Nov 2008)
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