Peter Goldsworthy

‘You might ask how a man who spent his days with the major poems of Browning could wish to spend his evenings with the minor movies of Chow Yun-fat,’ Clive James asks ...

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Peter Porter's posthumous collection of poems, Chorale at the Crossing, is preoccupied, understandably, with death – but death was a central preoccupation of his work from the beginning. How could it not be? He lost his mother at the age of nine.

Porter's two Collected Poems (1983 and 1999) were – are – stupendous, exuberant treasure- ...

Speaking of the un-
spoken, jokes are a smoky
subspecies

This near-haiku is not so much a final definition of jokes as one definition of poetry. It shows up in Peter Goldsworthy's sequence 'Ars Poetica'. What he means is that the wordplay of jokes we make every day is a microcosm, a type and model of the more grandiose verbal surp ...

I sometimes think that poetry sits in relation to the great empire of the Novel as precariously as early Christianity in the Roman Empire: small groups of devotees gathering in catacombs to perform their sacred rites. OK, the stakes are not as high (the odd literary lion notwithstanding) and things have changed a little in recent years (new media platforms, performa ...

Clive James’s series of memoirs began in 1980 with the Unreliable one. Thirty-five years and four more very funny books later, the Five Lives of Clive have been rounded with a sixth: a slim volume of poems. It is probably also the most reliable, as if, paradoxically, James took more poetic licence when working in prose. The prevailing tone is a long way fro ...

Italo Calvino once observed that the ideal condition for a writer is ‘close to anonymity’, adding that ‘the more the author’s figure invades the field, the more the world he portrays empties’. These comments about anonymity were made during an interview on Swiss television, no less. Calvino must have felt his imaginary worlds slipping away as he spoke ...

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‘Who do you think you are?’ an eminent paediatrician once thundered at me across a child’s cot during his weekly grand ward round. ‘Anton Chekhov?’

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My son Daniel’s African wedding took place in Lancashire – where his new Zambian in-laws live – a few days after the US presidential election. Barack Obama was not on the guest list, but his presence loomed so large that he might have been an extra, virtual, best man.

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In reviewing the first half of Simon Leys’s new book, The Wreck of the Batavia, I’m tempted to regurgitate my review from these pages (ABR, June–July 2002) of Mike Dash’s history of the Batavia shipwreck Batavia’s Graveyard (2002) – especially since Leys also holds that book in high regard, rendering all other histories, his own included ...

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Susan Sontag has identified in contemporary fiction what she calls an ‘impatient, ardent and elliptical’ drive. These are features, above all, of the well-wrought story, and they are also adjectives that well describe its inherent paradox: the story is contained but somehow urgent, intensified but working in a system of concision, suggestive but employing referential exorbitance. Four pages might betoken an entire world.

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