• To be really faced with the abyss means that poetry comes into the mind all the time, as if darkness could speak” – Clive James

National Poetry Day today. And few poets have taken more inspiration from the topic of the ultimate failure in life, of life, than Clive James. A recent interview in the Sunday Times, “Trust me: you won’t make a living from poetry till you’re dying”, highlighted the psychological, creative and even commercial upsides impending death brings to the poet. In that piece (and many other interviews since) he speaks candidly about the impact of his pending mortality brought on by terminal leukaemia. As the piece notes, “Terminal illness has helped Clive James write the finest – and most successful – verse of his 60-year literary career.” And, all poets will appreciate this quote from Dylan Thomas that James’ cites embracing the inevitability of commercial failure in poetry: “The lack of money continues to pour in.”

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