Poetry: The River in the Sky (the book) | clivejames.com
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The River in the Sky

Picador, 2018
For Prue

Read the poem HERE

Jacket Blurb

His energy came back to him through memory
As mine does here and now, as if lent power
By the force of its own fading

At the opening of this epic poem, we find Clive James in ill health but high spirits. Although his body traps him in his Cambridge home, his mind is free to roam.

The River in the Sky takes us on a grand tour of ‘the fragile treasures of his life’. Animated by powerful recollections, James presents a flowing stream of vivid images. He moves from emotionally resonant personal moments, such as listening to jazz records with his future wife, to unforgettable encounters with all kinds of culture: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony sits alongside ‘YouTube’s vast cosmopolis’.

As ever with James, he shares his passions with enormous generosity, making brilliant and original connections, and fearlessly tackling the biggest questions: the meaning of life and how to live it. In the end, what emerges from this autobiographical epic is a soaring work of exceptional depth and overwhelming feeling, a new marvel for the modern age.

About the Author

Clive James is the multimillion-copy bestselling author of more than forty books. His poetry collection Sentenced to Life and his translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy were both Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and his collections of verse have been shortlisted for many prizes. In 2012 he was appointed CBE and in 2013 an Officer of the Order of Australia.


‘James’s confrontation with his approaching death is nothing short of inspirational’

‘James writes with exquisite perception and surgical precision; he is a poet of powerful argument and emotional force’
The Times

‘Clive James’s book-length poem The River in the Sky is superb, an epic lament, written in late life, filled with exact and moving observations about life and culture. “If my ashes end up in an hour-glass,” he wrote, “I can go on working.” ’
— Dwight Garner, New York Times