Sentenced to Life

Clive James

22 September 2016
80 pages


Collecting poetry written in the years 2011–2014, Sentenced to Life sees Clive James look back over his extraordinarily rich life with a clear-eyed and unflinching honesty.

After falling dangerously ill in 2010, Clive James did not expect to live to see this volume published. But live he did, and these poems see James writing with his insight and energy not only undiminished but positively charged by his situation.

There is no sense of self-pity in this collection, which includes the internet sensation ‘Japanese Maple’ and which deals openly with regret, death and his own illness,. With a great breadth of subject matter – taking in Hollywood, travel, art and politics – it is his fascination with humanity that shines through. It is, above all, a celebration of life – all that is treasurable and memorable in our time here.

Rich in wisdom and sharp of thought, Sentenced to Life represents a career high point from one of the great literary intelligences of the age.

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

Many of these poems are an appeal to the heart, and in particular to the heart of his wife. The collection’s defining quality is gallantry and it is this that makes it so moving
Clive James is courageously fighting his dark future with that most powerful of weapons: poetry. He may lose the battle but his words will linger