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A girl bright as an egret's wing Will cleave unto an oaf and see perfection, And as for him, don't ask. He thinks her thighs Open on heaven and his hands have eyes.

Nefertiti in the Flak Tower: Clive James - Book | Rahva Raamat

Time will sort all that out, but what a loss! Sweet reason is our name for sour reflection, The pause for thought that kills the fairy floss. With luck, there will be two of you to trade Tales of the star-burst that could never fade, But did, and give a voice to introspection: Which is love too, though not quite the young kind We comfort ourselves now by calling blind.

But there is nothing young love fails to see Except the future.

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Bodies and their connection Are all creation, shorn of history. Clive James recently talked to Art Beat by phone. This excerpt has been lightly edited for length. This is a house full of my books and probably this is as far as I will get, since I have been quite, quite sick lately. But if I make it through this winter, I plan to get some more writing done. I like best to be surprised. I like it when the idea suddenly comes to me. As the idea came to me for a poem about Walt Whitman whom I admire so much. I was sick at the time. Click to enlarge the image. I think it was in I had just died a couple of times that year.

And my friend, Adam Gopnik, did the wonderful thing of bringing me books. Van Wyck Brooks was a formidable character, not as well remembered now as he might be. He was a great, great critic. And when he was talking about Whitman, he said this wonderful thing, that Whitman had spent his last few weeks on Earth, his last time as it were, sitting beside a pond wearing nothing but his hat. All I can say is that I have always written poems. But I am sure, I want to write great poems. I think every poet should want that.

And that usually comes in short forms I think. And make sure that anyone caught reading it is expelled from school. Then it will acquire the glamour. What is the connection between these two sentiments? I think nowadays there is more regret than desire. One of the things I regret, perhaps there was too much desire. The great thing about living until you get a bit older if you are a writer, and especially a poet, is that you have more life to reflect on. And I think that if I am better now — and I think that I am probably better than I was — is because that I simply have more to think about, more to get under control, more to understand.

Try to understand myself, for example. ART BEAT: Would it be wrong to think then that in your poems you express wishes to be young again, maybe with the wisdom that you have now?

‘Nefertiti in the Flak Tower’ by Clive James

Not until the last minute. Being young is wonderful. But one of the secrets of being a human individual — a mature human individual shall we put it rather grandly — is that you can see this desire in perspective.


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The secret for an artist is to make that a subject and not bang your head against the wall and give up. But I am making a subject of that. And I am rather enjoying that. But now, being confronted with your own mortality, you say that you have a new subject matter to explore in your writing and poetry.

One is aging. The other is the question of being sick.

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But being sick is a different matter, it alters the future. You might had not had much left at all and it concentrates the mind. It helped to concentrate my mind on the way I lived and whether I had lived worthily and whether I had written worthily. And I make being sick the subject.

They have no idea of time because they have so much energy and I was like that. I had so much energy, I was a fireball.


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