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Poetry Notebook

Reflections on the Intensity of Language

Clive James (Author)

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Overview | Formats

Legendary poet and critic Clive James provides an unforgettably eloquent book on how to read and appreciate modern poetry.

Since its initial publication, Poetry Notebook has become a must-read for any lover of poetry. Somewhat of an iconoclast, Clive James gets to the heart of truths about poetry not always addressed, “some hard” but always “firmly committed to celebration” (Martin Amis). He presents a distillation of all he’s learned about the art form that matters to him most. James examines the poems and legacies of a panorama of twentieth-century poets, from Hart Crane to Ezra Pound (a “mad old amateur fascist with a panscopic grab bag”), from Ted Hughes to Anne Sexton. Whether demanding that poetry be heard beyond the world of letters or opining on his five favorite poets (Yeats, Frost, Auden, Wilbur, and Larkin), his “generosity of attention, his willingness to trawl through pages of verse in search of the hair-raising line, is his most appealing quality as a critic” (Adam Kirsch, Wall Street Journal).

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • April 2016
  • ISBN 978-1-63149-142-9
  • 5.5 × 8.2 in / 256 pages
  • Sales Territory: USA and Dependencies and the Philippines.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverPoetry Notebook: Reflections on the Intensity of Language


Endorsements & Reviews

“This ability to tell which lines live and which only counterfeit life—call it, simply, taste—is Mr. James’s great strength as a critic of poetry. His focus on the phrase and the line, rather than the large structure or the governing thought, feels like a poet’s way of reading. . . . Mr. James’s generosity of attention, his willingness to trawl through pages of verse in search of the hair-raising line, is his most appealing quality as a critic.” — Adam Kirsch, Wall Street Journal

“Clive James has a fantastic range and depth of knowledge. He is, at times, miraculously funny. He writes knowledgeably and with passion about literature, and especially poetry.” — Sam Leith, Spectator

“A unique figure, a straddler of genres and a bridger of the gaps between high and low culture. He will be seen, I think, as one of the most important and influential writers of our time.” — Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

“[Poetry Notebook is] compact and entertaining… James is still with us and, on virtually every page of Poetry Notebook, shedding sparks. Readers who make the mistake of finding his taste for canonical poems ‘conservative’ should still get a charge from his bloody-minded drive… A breathtaking book by an old master running out of breaths.” — Jason Guriel, The New Republic

“A rousing compendium of short essays about poetry and poets that James has published over the years…. Charged, idiosyncratic readings of the classics as well as more recent works…. I defy anyone not to be moved by these essays in which a great critic reflects on the works that have shaped him, even as, James says, he prepares himself to head off to ‘the empty regions.’” — Maureen Corrigan, NPR

“A book bursting with quotable moments, many of them spill-your-drink funny…. Indeed, great poetry thrills James in the way roller coasters and celebrity sightings thrill other people. His enthusiasm is infectious.” — Emily Donaldson, Toronto Star

Also by Clive James All

  1. Book CoverCollected Poems: 1958-2015


  2. Book CoverCultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts


  3. Book CoverCultural Cohesion: The Essential Essays


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