Poetry: Angels Over Elsinore | clivejames.com
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Angels Over Elsinore

Collected Verse 2003–2008

Picador, 2008
To Stephen Edgar


My thanks are due to the editors of the Australian, the Australian Literary Review, the Monthly, Meanjin, the Australian Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, the Spectator, the Guardian, the London Review of Books, the Liberal, Standpoint, the New York Times, Poetry (Chicago) and the New Yorker. ‘Les Saw It First’ made its debut in the Festschrift for Les Murray, Letters to Les, published by the Mildura Festival. I would also like to thank the various editors of the annual anthologies The Best Australian Poems and The Best Australian Poetry for their generous harbouring of a carpetbagger. The poem ‘Ramifications of Pure Beauty’ first appeared in The Book of My Enemy, but it needed revision because of factual errors, so I have given it another run. I am well aware that the title of ‘Status Quo Vadis’ is bad Latin. But it is an exact transcription of a line in the film Strictly Ballroom, and therefore has classic status of a kind. Finally, my thanks to Don Paterson for his detailed comments and for choosing the order.

Clive writes (for the original clivejames.com)

Published by Picador in 2008, Angels Over Elsinore was my first collection since The Book of My Enemy gathered together all my early work. So really this book can be considered as the beginning of my later work, for anyone keen on chronological divisions. I personally am not: I can remember serving the poetic impulse as faithfully as I could from my earliest writing days, and it has always felt like the same surge, as it were. Much to my gratification, the book was seriously reviewed, and I include links to some of those reviews here. Before I fell ill in early 2010 I gave several stage readings from this book at various venues, and found that most of the poems I chose to read passed my test of holding the audience’s attention at first hearing.

Jacket Blurb

Clive James, our most brilliant prose stylist, is also a naturally gifted poet, and this is his most accomplished collection to date. From reminiscences of his Australian childhood and elegies for friends and family to hilarious observations on the state of the language in the twenty-first century, and reflections on art, metaphysics, science and faith, Angels Over Elsinore is simultaneously witty, passionate and provocative. Fired by the same energy and rigorous intelligance as his prose, his verse displays a breathtaking range — but for all its dazzling variety, one theme sings through: James’s inexhaustible fascination with his fellow humans.


‘Beautifully written, intelligent, full of ideas clearly communicated and feelings perfectly encapsulated — these are proper poems with musical structure that are clever, moving and memorable’
— Judges, Costa Book Award 2009

‘The new poems again apply faultless technique to subject matter that ranges in weight from helium to promethium ... These poems are dazzling’

‘There is a casually rich mix of cultural allusions, but the most important quality is complete clarity’

Reviews of Angels Over Elsinore




Peter Stothard