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Unread 11-27-2019, 11:58 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Staffordshire, England
Posts: 3,822
Default R.I.P Clive James

Clive James has died, aged 80. I have fond memories of laughing at him laughing at Japanese game shows on TV when I was a very small boy, and then as an adult listening to his 'A Point of View' on Radio 4. I had no idea until a few years ago that he was an accomplished poet. I read his "Poetry Notebook" essay collection quite recently. It's very good. A clever and witty writer, and he seemed a good soul.

Here he is on 'A Point of View' being lugubrious and funny on the subject of crimes against language.
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Unread 11-27-2019, 06:26 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 4,266

I'm heartbroken. In one year, losing Clive and Les.

And here's the closing paragraph of his wonderful "Unreliable Memoirs":

"As I begin this last paragraph, outside my window a misty afternoon drizzle gently but inexorably soaks the City of London. Down there in the street I can see umbrellas commiserating with each other. In Sydney Harbour, twelve thousand miles away and ten hours from now, the yachts will be racing on the crushed diamond water under a sky the texture of powdered sapphires. It would be churlish not to concede that the same abundance of natural blessings which gave us the energy to leave has every right to call us back. All in, the whippy's taken. Pulsing like a beacon through the days and nights, the birthplace of the fortunate sends out its invisible waves of recollection. It always has and it always will, until even the last of us come home."

And Jonathan Miller, too, dead. I'll never forget him saying in an interview (with Melvyn Bragg, I think), "The purpose of life is to learn how to die."

Editing in --- if you can access this recording -- -- if you're able to listen to it, it's pure gold.

Last edited by Cally Conan-Davies; 11-27-2019 at 06:29 PM.
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Unread 11-28-2019, 02:08 AM
Ann Drysdale's Avatar
Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is online now
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Old South Wales (UK)
Posts: 5,325

I looked for the bit of Clive that once made me cry in my kitchen; I found it..
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Unread 11-28-2019, 09:35 AM
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Don Jones Don Jones is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Dayton, Ohio
Posts: 1,035

Thank you, Cally, for the link to that wonderful conversation. How down to earth, humble and wicked smart Clive was.

Here is a famous poem by him, appropriate at the time of his death. The first stanza stings with its unadorned honesty, serving as a thesis for who he is as man and poet.

Son of a Soldier

My tears came late. I was fifty-five years old
Before I began to cry authentically:
First for the hurt I had done to those I loved,
Then for myself, for what had been done to me
In the beginning, to make my heart so cold.

When the floodgates opened, the flood was not like rain.
With the undammed water came the sad refuse:
The slime, the drowned rats and the bloated corpse
Of the man whose absence had plugged up the sluice
That now gushed junk into my neat domain.

Not older by all that much than my dear daughters
He lay disfiguring a flower bed,
As if by bubbling gas a shallow grave
Of massacre had thrust up one of its dead,
Not to be washed clean by the clearest waters.

I took leave of my wife and knelt beside him
Who could have been my son, though I was his,
And everything he had not come back to tell me
About how everlasting true love is
Was a mouth of mud, so thick did woe betide him.

‘Had you come home, I would not be what I am,’
I cried. ‘I could have loved my mother less
And not searched for more like her among others,
Parched for a passion undimmed by distress
While you lay deep behind that looming dam.’

The wet earth swallowed him. This time his grave
Was marked: at least I knew now where he was.
I turned to meet her eyes. ‘Let me explain,’
I said to her. ‘My tears were trapped because
He left me to be tender, strong and brave

Who was none of those things. Inflamed by fright,
The love that he did not return to make
To the first woman I knew and could not help,
Became in me a thirst I could never slake
For one more face transfigured by delight,

Yet needing nothing else. It was a doomed quest
Right from the start, and now it is at an end.
I am too old, to raddled, too ashamed.
Can I stay in your house? I need a friend.’
‘So did I,’ she said truly. ‘But be my guest:

God knows I too have waited wasted years
To have my husband home. Our parents wept
For history. Great events prised them apart,
Not greed, guilt, lies and promises unkept.
Pray they come not too late, these healing tears.’

The house we live in and that man-sized mount
Are a long walk between, yet both are real.
Like family life, his flowers have their weeds
To save them from a sanitized ideal.
I hope this balance holds until the ground

Takes me down, too. But I fear they will go on thronging,
Those pipe-dream sprites who promise a fresh start—
Free, easy furies haunting a cot case*
That never lived, or loved, with a whole heart—
Until for one last time I die of longing.

What will I tell her then, in that tattoo
Of the last breath, the last gasp, the death rattle?
The truth: that in my life stolen from him
Whose only legacy was a lost battle,
The one thing that belonged to me was you.

*Australian and New Zealand: a person confined to bed through illness.
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Unread 11-28-2019, 10:30 AM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 4,266

Annie, yes.

Don, yes -- to say it so crisply, so clearly. Here is another link which contains an interview and a recording of Clive reading his "Japanese Maple" death poem—

In a small coincidence, our copy of Clive's Somewhere Becoming Rain: Collected Writings on Philip Larkin arrived a few days ago. Published this year, the introduction must be one of the last things he ever wrote. Here's what he writes at the end—
Apart from the very occasional poem that might be classified as deliberately obscure, every Larkin creation makes nothing but sense on the level of straighforward statement; and then, even more remarkable, it goes on being intelligible as it climbs into the realms of implication, until finally there you are, up above the estuary and heading down a cloudy channel towards where? Well, nowhere except everywhere.
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