LOG IN TO MY ACCOUNT

THE BOOK OF MY ENEMY:

COLLECTED VERSE 1958–2003

CLIVE JAMES

 

A LETTER TO MR CLIVE JAMES, TO MARK THE PUBLICATION OF HIS COLLECTED VERSE

 

Dear Clive, I took your book up to the study

The better to appraise you next your peers

Martin, Craig Raine, Larkin – all those fuddy-duddies

That you’ve addressed your poems to for years

Such coy encomia might be thought romantic


A better word, alas, is ‘sycophantic’.

 

Your verse, of course, depends on incongruity

Those brainy thoughts hemmed in by metric bands

The reader may find only superfluity

A poet rarely sitting on his hands

Using the dreary plod of terza rima

To hymns his jaunts to Tokyo and Lima.

 

‘To Gore Vidal at 50’ – you’re fond of anniversaries

And bustling round the globe as cultural gaucho

Your chums bag TV shows and bursaries

In a land where Wood Lane meets the Groucho

You pastiche Amis (K) with effervescence

In a style a few yards short of obsolescence.

 

It’s not all bad – oh no, there’s personal stuff in here

Things about love, truths uttered from beneath the moral hat

The only absentee is Germaine Greer


Amid a throng of Ozzie takes on where it’s at


’81, your rhyming round-up says, was quite a year

Two decades on, the SDP seem smallest of small beer.

 

‘Last night the sea dreamed it was Greta Scacchi’

I’ll admit I giggled hugely over that


Styled like an elephant with howdah by Versace

A versifying fizz that’s fallen sadly flat.

My own credentials won’t match up to you – alas

I never wrote for Ian Hamilton’s Review.

 

Oh well. I have to go now Clive, my pen runs idle

Unlike your own uncurbed extravaganzas

Unchained by any editorial bridle

And dancing on from stanza unto endless stanza

As for your talent – well I’ll gladly tender that

There are three Clives – James I, James II and Old Pretender.