BOOK CLUB: The Fire of Joy

Clive James is one of those Australians who became more famous overseas than here in Australia.  His reputation as a bestselling author, a TV critic and TV presenter earnt him well deserved recognition.  He received many international awards for his writing which included his highly amusing and nostalgic autobiography Unreliable Memoirs.  

Those who knew Clive as a TV presenter might not realise what a serious writer and reader he could be, or know of his passion for poetry.

Clive died in 2019 after a long illness and prior to his death, he spent many months revisiting the poems he knew (often by heart) and loved.  Through The Fire of Joy Clive introduces the reader to many of the world’s great poets, he not only provides examples of their work (and encourages us to read them aloud) but alongside each poem he provides a commentary.

Sometimes they are historical or critical notes, often they provide more insight into the poet and their work or they feature personal anecdotes from Clive’s life.  What all of these commentaries do is provide the reader with background knowledge and make so many of these great poets more human, accessible and readable.  

This anthology features poets from the Tudors through to the 21st century, the list (roughly 80) features many of the great poets and a few that are not so well known. I can’t bring myself to list some of the poets as examples because I want to list them all!  

As stated earlier Clive wants the reader to “get by heart and say aloud”.  I can’t remember the last time a read a poem aloud but I followed the Rules on Reading Aloud provided by Clive and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also realised that reading aloud gives the reader a different perspective on the work.

As I got into this wonderful anthology I rediscovered poets I’d forgotten and discovered new writers.  Thanks to Clive’s intelligent, witty commentaries I found I wanted to learn more about so many of the poets and their work (a lot of Googling started to take place).  I was also inspired to share this anthology with family and friends so that hopefully they too will be inspired to enjoy poetry.

This is my favourite book of 2020 and one that I will keep close and refer to again and again.  

A huge thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia and the Beauty and Lace Book Club for the opportunity to read this terrific anthology. 

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Fire of Joy by Clive James. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

ISBN: 978-1529059366 / Pan Macmillan Australia

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