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y separately published work icon The River in the Sky selected work   poetry  
Issue Details: First known date: 2018... 2018 The River in the Sky
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Clive James has been close to death for several years, and he has written about the experience in a series of deeply moving poems. In Sentenced to Life, he was clear-sighted as he faced the end, honest about his regrets. In Injury Time, he wrote about living well in the time remaining, focusing our attention on the joys of family and art, and celebrating the immediate beauty of the world.

'When The River in the Sky opens, we find James in ill health but high spirits. Although his body traps him at home, his mind is free to roam, and this long poem is animated by his recollection of what life was and never will be again; as it resolves into a flowing stream of vivid images, his memories are emotionally supercharged 'by the force of their own fading'. In this form, the poet can transmit the felt experience of his exceptional life to the reader.

'As ever with James, his enthusiasm is contagious; he shares his wide interests with enormous generosity, making brilliant and original connections, sparking passion in the reader so that you can explore the world's treasures yourself. Because this is not just a reminiscence, it's a wise and moving preparation for and acceptance of death. As James realizes that he is only one bright spot in a galaxy of stars, he passes the torch to the poets of the future, to his young granddaughter, and to you, his reader.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Notes

  • Dedication: for Prue

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Picador ,
      2018 .
      image of person or book cover 7710358519804613974.jpg
      Image courtesy of publisher's website.
      Extent: 112p.p.
      Note/s:
      • Published 11 September 2018.

      ISBN: 9781509887231

Works about this Work

Clive James : The River in the Sky Martin Duwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

'It’s probably fair to say that Clive James’s conventional poetry isn’t widely admired by practising poets in Australia and one can see what the problem is. Most of the poems (there are exceptions) are beautifully wrought objects whereby what is essentially a prose idea – an understanding of an experience, a representation of an emotion – forms the structure of the poem. You can hear people arguing that this isn’t what poetry is at all. It’s not that the poems of his various selecteds and the most recent individual volumes, especially those written since the onset of his serious illness, are not often brilliantly achieved it’s that they rarely take the author and reader into surprising and unpredictable areas: into new meanings that can’t be encapsulated in elegant sentences. The River in the Sky (we met the title – a translation of the Japanese words for the Milky Way – at the end of his last book of memoirs where it was floated as a title for a novel about the Pacific War) might be a book which bypasses all these problems. There is a quality of undeterminedness about it which is very attractive. It might be described loosely as a collection of memorable experiences (some of which are familiar from the autobiographical volumes and earlier poems). But the interesting part is the structure whereby these experiences are organised. I’m not sure that James is himself entirely sure about the nature of this structure though, being far cleverer than most of his readers or critics, he can suggest a lot of possibilities – there’s never anything dumb about James’s uncertainties. And that uncertainty makes reading The River in the Sky all the richer an experience.' (Introduction)

Coming True Geoff Page , 2018 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , November no. 406 2018; (p. 48-49)

'For admirers of Clive James’s poetry written since he became terminally ill in 2011 (and this reviewer is certainly one), The River in the Sky will pose something of a quandary. In collections like Sentenced to Life (2015) and Injury Time (2017), the poems were generally tough, vulnerable, well-turned and, given the circumstances, stoic. The River in the Sky has some of these qualities but is very different in nature and in its cumulative impact. Comprising scores of unnumbered verse paragraphs in various line lengths (iambic dimeter through to iambic pentameter), The River in the Sky is a kind of phantasmagoria presenting many key moments and visual episodes in James’s long, peripatetic life.' (Introduction)

Coming True Geoff Page , 2018 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , November no. 406 2018; (p. 48-49)

'For admirers of Clive James’s poetry written since he became terminally ill in 2011 (and this reviewer is certainly one), The River in the Sky will pose something of a quandary. In collections like Sentenced to Life (2015) and Injury Time (2017), the poems were generally tough, vulnerable, well-turned and, given the circumstances, stoic. The River in the Sky has some of these qualities but is very different in nature and in its cumulative impact. Comprising scores of unnumbered verse paragraphs in various line lengths (iambic dimeter through to iambic pentameter), The River in the Sky is a kind of phantasmagoria presenting many key moments and visual episodes in James’s long, peripatetic life.' (Introduction)

Clive James : The River in the Sky Martin Duwell , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Poetry Review , no. 14 2019;

'It’s probably fair to say that Clive James’s conventional poetry isn’t widely admired by practising poets in Australia and one can see what the problem is. Most of the poems (there are exceptions) are beautifully wrought objects whereby what is essentially a prose idea – an understanding of an experience, a representation of an emotion – forms the structure of the poem. You can hear people arguing that this isn’t what poetry is at all. It’s not that the poems of his various selecteds and the most recent individual volumes, especially those written since the onset of his serious illness, are not often brilliantly achieved it’s that they rarely take the author and reader into surprising and unpredictable areas: into new meanings that can’t be encapsulated in elegant sentences. The River in the Sky (we met the title – a translation of the Japanese words for the Milky Way – at the end of his last book of memoirs where it was floated as a title for a novel about the Pacific War) might be a book which bypasses all these problems. There is a quality of undeterminedness about it which is very attractive. It might be described loosely as a collection of memorable experiences (some of which are familiar from the autobiographical volumes and earlier poems). But the interesting part is the structure whereby these experiences are organised. I’m not sure that James is himself entirely sure about the nature of this structure though, being far cleverer than most of his readers or critics, he can suggest a lot of possibilities – there’s never anything dumb about James’s uncertainties. And that uncertainty makes reading The River in the Sky all the richer an experience.' (Introduction)

Last amended 27 Nov 2018 10:19:40
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