Welcome to the Website of Portsmouth Poetry
Established in 2016 we are a non-profit body encouraging poets and poetry in the city specialising in community and educational projects.
A Farewell to Clive James
Author, critic, broadcaster, translator and memoirist, Clive James was best known as a popular television presenter and interviewer but was also a brilliant poet and lyricist. Born in Sydney Australia in 1939, he moved to the UK in 1962 holding down a variety of short term jobs as a member of the Australian exodus that included Bruce Beresford and Barry Humphries. He went to Cambridge where he was friends with fellow émigré Germain Greer, joined the Footlights with Python Eric Idle and appeared on University Challenge.
In 1972 he abandoned a PhD thesis on Shelley to join the
Observer as television critic. His reviews quickly became popular for their
lucidity, frankness and wit. These were later published in a series of books
before he moved on to literary criticism continuing well into the new
millennium. At the same time, he collaborated with the musician Pete Atkin
writing the lyrics for six albums of Atkin’s music including the beautiful poem
to unrequited love “Flowers and Wine”.
Listen to "The Flowers And The Wine" on You Tube
His first poetry was published in 1974 and from the 1980’s he went on to publish ten collections including a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. In total he published more than twenty works of non-fiction, 5 popular memoirs and several novels.
His television career began as a guest contributor and
co-presenter for Granada which included a famous appearance by the Sex Pistols.
This led to the ITV show Clive James on Television, the first of a series of
highly popular shows produced by his company ‘Watchmaker’ during the 80’s and
90’s and one of the earliest chat-shows. He went on to present travel
programmes and documentaries that were broadcast in the UK, America and his
native Australia. Less well known is
that he could speak six languages in addition to English and was a tango
Despite this impressive career, it was as a writer he identified himself and primarily a poet. Diagnosed with terminal leukaemia and not long to live, he produced a superb collection of poems ‘Sentenced To Live’ confronting his impending demise and the beauties of life.
“I breathe the air
As if there were not much more of it there
And write these poems, which are funeral songs
That have been taught to me by vanished time”
A pharmaceutical breakthrough enabled James to live for
nearly ten years after his diagnosis which he spent writing, producing another collection "Injury Time" and a powerful epic ‘The River In the Sky’ published a year ago
‘Few people read
Poetry any more but I still wish
To write its seedlings down, if only for the lull
Of gathering: no less a harvest season
For being the last time.’
Four years ago when we began Portsmouth Poetry we needed a 'brand identifier', a slogan to reflect our intent. If few people read poetry, fewer still write it but in times of extreme joy or sadness it’s always poetry we turn to, borrowing the poets words where we struggle to find our own. One of the love songs Clive James wrote for Pete Atkin, ‘Have You Got A Biro I Can Borrow?’ So our sub-text became “From A Borrowed Biro”. Early one morning I emailed his agents to ask permission to borrow his words. I did not expect a rapid reply from a busy literary agency, even less a poet struggling with terminal leukaemia but less than two hours later his agency rang me to say that they had spoken to Clive who happily gave his permission without restriction or requirement and sent his best wishes for our success. It has been an honour to have had his endorsement !
'Away With Words' is our monthly event at Portsmouth Guildhall Studio celebrating the many forms the spoken word can take
What's On the Site?
The site is in 8 Sections, some with more than one page....
+ Featured Poet
+ Featured Poet
+ Who We Are
3. AWAY WITH WORDS
Our monthly spoken word event at Portsmouth Guildhall Studio explores the many forms words may take. A 'Pay-What-You-Feel' event with Bar.
SEE THE AWAY SWITH WORDS PAGE FOR WHATS ON NEXT!