Poetry: Nefertiti in the Flak Tower | clivejames.com
[Invisible line of text as temporary way to expand content column justified text width to hit margins on most viewports, simply for improved display stability in the interval between column creation and loading]

Nefertiti in the Flak Tower

Collected Verse 2008–2011

Picador, 2012
To Christian Wiman

Clive writes (for the original clivejames.com)

In 2010, when I fell ill, I had no means of knowing that there would ever be a volume of my recent verse called Nefertiti in the Flak Tower, or called anything. All I had was a handful of poems. But I found myself writing more of them even when I was in hospital. “Vertical Envelopment” was written while I was having my life saved in Addenbrooke’s hospital, Cambridge, UK; and “Whitman and the Moth” was written while I was having my life saved all over again in Mount Sinai hospital, New York. Eventually, in 2012, it was time for a volume, and I picked Nefertiti for the title because I have always liked the idea of her imperturbable gaze quivering only slightly as the guns of her latest tomb all went off at once. As a symbol of unshakeable purpose it seemed too good to miss.


My thanks to the editors of the New Yorker, Poetry (Chicago), the TLS, the Spectator, the New Statesman, Poetry Review, Standpoint, the Australian Literary Review, the Australian Book Review and Quadrant. Owing to an oversight on my part, “Dreams Before Sleeping” was printed in Angels Over Elsinore with one crucial line missing, so I have given the poem another run. “Special Needs” is in my volume of selected poems Opal Sunset but since I neglected to include it in Angels Over Elsinore it lacked a volume to be selected from, so to speak: hence its inclusion here. Otherwise all these poems are making their first appearance in volume form. Once again I am grateful to Don Paterson for his detailed comments and for choosing the order.

Jacket Blurb

Clive James’ power as a poet has increased year by year, and there has been no stronger evidence for this than Nefertiti in the Flak Tower. Here, his polymathic learning and technical virtuosity are worn more lightly than ever; the effect is merely to produce a deep sense of trust into which the reader gratefully sinks, knowing they are in the presence of a master. The most obvious token of that mastery is the book’s breathtaking range of theme: there are moving elegies, a meditation on the later Yeats, a Hollywood Iliad, odes to rare orchids, wartime typewriters and sharks — as well as a poem on the fate of Queen Nefertiti in Nazi Germany. But despite the dizzying variety, James’ poetic intention becomes increasingly clear: what marks this new collection out is his intensified concentration on the individual poem as a self-contained universe. Poetry is a practice he compares (in ‘Numismatics’) to striking new coin; and Nefertiti in the Flak Tower is a treasure-chest of one-off marvels, with each poem a twin-sided, perfect human balance of the unashamedly joyous and the deadly serious, ‘whose play of light pays tribute to the dark’.

* * *

Clive James is the author of more than forty books. As well as essays, he has published collections of literary and television criticism, travel writing, verse and novels, plus five volumes of autobiography, Unreliable Memoirs, Falling Towards England, May Week Was In June, North Face of Soho and The Blaze of Obscurity. As a television performer he appeared regularly for both the BBC and ITV, most notably as writer and presenter of the ‘Postcard’ series of travel documentaries. He helped to found the independent television production company Watchmaker and the multimedia personal website www.clivejames.com. His book Cultural Amnesia was widely noticed in all the English-speaking countries and is currently being translated into Chinese. His popular Radio 4 series A Point of View has been published in volume form. In 1992 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2003 he was awarded the Philip Hodgins memorial medal for literature. He holds honorary doctorates from Sydney University and the University of East Anglia. In 2012 he was appointed CBE.

Reviews of Nefertiti in the Flak Tower

Stephen Romer

Robert Conquest

PBS Transcript

Open Letters Monthly