Opal Sunset

Clive James

25 February 2016
208 pages


Opal Sunset gathers together fifty years of Clive James’s poetry, and enhances his reputation as one of the most versatile and accomplished of contemporary writers. Indeed – as with Other Passports, The Book of My Enemy and Angels Over Elsinore before it – Opal Sunset proves Clive James to be as well suited to the intense demands of the poetic form as he is to prose.

Readers new to his verse will not be surprised to find him a master of the comic set-piece and surreal excursion, while those who are familiar with his previous collections will already be aware of his fluency and apparently effortless style, his technical skill and thematic scope. Ultimately, however, the highest recommendation one can give is that Clive James is, in these poems, unmistakably himself – an assured and dazzling wordsmith.

His other poetry collections include Collected Poems, Angels Over Elsinore and Sentenced to Life.

James is an absolute master of surface, and the great critic of surfaces, not because he is superficial but because he believes that the distortions on the surface tell you what’s underneath. His simplicity isn’t simple and his clarity has depth. With the essays and the poems – which I think you have to consider as one great project – he’s built an immense, protective barrier reef around western civilization.
At the writing desk, many poets are on their best behavior, but not Clive James, who allows his inner Byron to emerge – satiric, scathing at times, and keenly attuned to the frivolities of the day. Opal Sunset is a generous helping of his very best, guaranteed to lift the spirit and raise the eyebrow.