Poetry: Other Passports | 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]

Other Passports

Poems 1958–1985

Jonathan Cape Hardback 1986Pan Picador Paperback 1987
To Karl Miller

Archive Editor’s note

This 1986 collection achieved little more than footnote status in Clive’s original Website clivejames.com, perhaps through its being overshadowed by the later, expanded collection of early verse, The Book of my Enemy, published in 2003. But its importance in establishing his public reputation as a poet, besides those of critic, memoirist, wit and TV presenter (his skill as a pop lyricist was to remain a secret known only to a select few) should not go unmentioned. In the pursuit of completeness I have instated Other Passports here at its deserved point in the Archive. However, to avoid unnecessary repetition I am redirecting Web requests for duplicated content to the appropriate location under The Book of my Enemy. Rather than adding all the titles to this part of our left-column menu, which would break the continuity of our “fast track” blue-arrow route through the ‘Poetry’ section, I have created a separate ‘Contents’ page for Other Passports. Clicking on any entry there will take you to the listed item; your ‘Back’ button will thence return you to the ‘Contents’ page, though you might prefer to stay with The Book of my Enemy where there is so much more to be discovered.

— SJB, February 2021


Clive James was educated at Sidney University and Cambridge, where he was President of Footlights. In addition to his best-seller Unreliable Memoirs and its equally successful sequel Falling Towards England, he has published a novel, Brilliant Creatures, four mock-epic poems, The Fate of Felicity Fark, Peregrine Prykke’s Pilgrimage, Britannia Bright’s Bewilderment and Charles Charming’s Challenges; three books of literary criticism, The Metropolitan Critic, At the Pillars of Hercules and From the Land of Shadows; a book of verse letters, Fan-Mail, and a verse diary, Poem of the Year. Between 1972 and 1982 he was television critic for the Observer; the three volumes of selections from his column are entitled Visions Before Midnight, The Crystal Bucket, and Glued to the Box. As a television performer he has appeared regularly in several series, most notably Cinema, Saturday Night People, Clive James on Television and The Late Clive James. His Paris Fashion Show, directed by Terence Donovan, was honoured with an Emmy nomination, and both At the Movies and Clive James on Television were nominated for BAFTA Awards.


‘Clive James is a brilliant bunch of guys’

‘Clive James is a true poet. Line after line of his has a characteristic personal tone, a kind of end-stopped singingness which is almost independent of what it says ... It is precisely because he harps so much on poetry as a public art with a responsibility to its readers of satisfying their expectations of form and meaning, that it is important to stress his latent loyalty to poetry as beautiful language’

OTHER PASSPORTS is a delight’

‘I approached the book with dread and was quite overwhelmed by it. It seemed to me to be persuasive, moving, intelligent. It was a commentary on our times and on the world’

‘Brilliant, amusing and technically dazzling poetry ... Few poets since Byron have handled ottava rima with such dexterity and confidence. Part of the fun we derive from reading James comes from his delighted awareness of the risks he is running and the skill and cleverness with which he is coping with the challenge’

‘It would be pretty easy to underestimate these poems, neglecting their sustained technical accomplishment and their cornucopia of comic invention’

‘Great fun to dip into ... His range of interests and learning is formidable, and he demonstrates his mastery of demanding verse forms ... Armchair readers who want to know where things are at in the metropolitan scene (and in the great Cosmopolitan Elsewhere) will greatly enjoy being entertained by James’

‘His Babu version of THE WASTE LAND is in wonderfully bad taste ... His opening piece, THE BOOK OF MY ENEMY HAS BEEN REMAINDERED is even funnier than the title promises ... JOHNNY WEISSMULLER DEAD IN ACAPULCO is both comic and touching’