Aug 5, 2009

On the awfulness of Clive James

Australian Literary Review have published another whopper Clive James poem. His poetry is "self-parodic" and "depressingly bad" , sighs Guy Rundle.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Sigh. Another Australian Literary Review, another Clive James poem, its very existence subtracting from the sum worth of poetry as a mode of expression. This one Aldeburgh Dawn is about a literary festival that James attended. When it's not merely self-parodic:

Later, near midnight, on the esplanade A pair of ancient people hand in hand Sit on a bench. Ideally they should be The ghosts of Vishnevskaya and Rostropovich...

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23 thoughts on “On the awfulness of Clive James

  1. Frank Campbell

    Later, near midnight, on the esplanade
    I strangled Clive James
    But only the poet.

  2. simon blackall

    In his double asterisked footnote Guy says he badly needs to retrain for a new profession. One can only agree if he continues to refer to someone called Benjamin Britton (as opposed to Britten).

  3. Jean Webster

    Phew, I thought it was only me.
    Clive James has always been a second-rate club act, though without the self-awareness for which second-rate club acts are generally so renowned..

  4. Richard Murphy

    Sure it’s dreadful, and it resembles much else that continues to be published at least until the last niche lit mag finally gags on reader indifference. Which in turn suggests we are witnessing a historico-cultural phenomenon: no-one can rhetorically speak for anyone else anymore no matter how artful the prosody. Like ‘fine’ art poetry in English is losing or has lost the power to advance its own cultural perspective.
    Mainstream art forms have lost or are losing the power to serve as beacons for the community in its search for meaning in contemporary life. So, are we on the verge of a quantum leap in universal consciousness? 2012 is not that far away.

  5. james mcdonald

    Good review, Guy, of another in our legions of social-realist depressives who believe that accurately conveying a mood — any mood, particularly those of a writer with the black dog on his back — is something worth serving up to the world.

    Only Raymond Chandler was able to raise such non-statements to art form: “Nobody came in, nobody called, nothing happened, nobody cared whether I died or went to El Paso.”

    The sense of empathy can be darkly seductive to the more introspective readers — I even get a hint of this in your footnotes, so I hope you’ll review something more upbeat for us next time.

  6. Guy Rundle

    not really simon, i’d be slapdash in everything i did.

  7. james mcdonald

    Oh, and Simon Blackall? One of the things I like about Guy is he’s old school, a bit of a Tom Wolfe successor, and carries all this stuff around in his head; he doesn’t write with one hand constantly on the mouse for wikipedia references. As they say about hand-made furniture: “Minor flaws emphasize the hand-made quality.”

    If your definition of quality journalism is scrupulous adherence to the reference spelling for everything (a quite recent development in English writing, by the way), then perhaps you’re wasting your money on newsletters and would be happier browsing dictionaries and phone books.

  8. george

    “…all the genuinely talented poets … stayed or returned” What about Randolph Stow?!?!

  9. paddy

    I’m with you Guy. It would have to be a very dark and stormy night, before I could bring myself to read anything Clive “Bulwer-Lytton” James claimed as his poetry.

  10. John Inglis

    The similarity between the art and form of Clive James and that of a Vogon is obvious. We need to ask him two questions.
    Where is the planning department ?
    Can we get a lift ?

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