Clive James talks about poetry, Dante, and illness on Radio 4
Clive James read his poem, ‘Nimrod’, about the death of his father in the second world war, in a wide-ranging interview with Andrew Marr on Radio 4’s Start the Week on Monday 23 December. James’s translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy has been shortlisted for the Costa poetry prize.
Marr asked the writer, critic and former TV presenter if his poems had “darkened, shortened and deepened” in recent years. James replied: “I’ve got more to reflect on, I’m a wiser man,” before reading another poem that included the lines: “But now I have slowed down. I breathe the air / As if there were not much more of it there.”
Talking about his translation of Dante, he said that one problem was that English is “rhyme-poor”. James, who has emphysema, and is in remission from leukaemia, said he would do more poetry readings if he had the energy. He added that when poems came to him, “suddenly you feel in your head that something is possible”. He also conceded that after falling ill: “I see things with a clearness, almost a radiance that I never did before … you get to the stage where everything looks like a revelation.”
You can hear the full interview here