Opal Sunset

Clive James

25 February 2016
208 pages


Selecting the very best of his work from over fifty years, Opal Sunset demonstrates Clive James as one of the most versatile and accomplished poets of the past half-century.

Whether dealing in the comic set-piece or surreal excursion, or managing serious subject matter with fluency and apparently effortless style, the poetry of Clive James dazzles with its technical skill and thematic scope. As a TV critic on Fleet Street and later a broadcaster in his own right, he achieved such fame for writing the way he spoke that his poetry was regarded as an idiosyncratic sideline, as if no celebrity could write worthy verse. In his later years, however, his accumulated poetic output became impossible to ignore. His later poems about the tragedy that struck his mother and father deal honestly with regret and mark his maturity as a poet – and evoke touching nostalgia for his homeland, Australia.

A treasure to return to, Opal Sunset collects verse written 1958–2008 and presents Clive James, poet, at his very best.

Clive James (1939–2019) was a broadcaster, critic, poet, memoirist and novelist. His acclaimed poetry includes the collection Sentenced to Life and a translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy, both Sunday Times bestsellers. His passion for and knowledge of poetry are distilled in his book of criticism on the subject, Poetry Notebook, and, written in the last year of his life, his personal annotated anthology of favourite poems, The Fire Of Joy.

Praise for Clive James:

'He will be seen, I think, as one of the most important and influential writers of our time' – Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

'Wise, witty, terrifying, unflinching and extraordinarily alive' – A.S. Byatt, critic and author of Possession: A Romance

'Clive James is a true poet' – Peter Porter, London Review of Books

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.