I am a huge fan of Clive James, he made his name as a television critic, essayist and wit but he started as a poet and five years ago he was diagnosed with leukaemia, emphysema and kidney failure – he describes it as ‘the lot’ and he is ending as a poet.
There’s a particular story I remember reading about James, it goes like this…
One time he was going through a creative dry spell. He had written a play for the London stage and it bombed spectacularly. Not only did it ruin his family financially but it also cost him some dear friends. He fell into the deepest depression and shame. When the play closed, all he could do was sit on the sofa in his lounge and stare at the wall, mortified and humiliated. His wife held the family together, somehow. He did not feel he could ever write again. He stayed under this spell for a very long time. One day though, his young daughters interrupted his grieving process. They asked him if he could make their old scruffy secondhand bicycles look nicer. James obeyed, in a dutiful but not joyous manner. He carefully painted the girls bicycles in bright shades of red, frosted the wheel spokes with silver and when the paint dried he added tiny silver and gold stars all over the bicycles. ‘A field of exquisitely detailed constellations’. James couldn’t stop painting stars, the girls wanted their bicycles back and grew impatient. When at last he handed the bicycles back to the girls, they pedalled off up the road, on their magical ‘new’ bikes, completely thrilled and excited. The next day, his daughters brought home a little girl from school, who asked if he would paint stars on her bicycle. He did it. When that was done, another little girl turned up and soon there was a whole queue of little girls wanting him to paint stars on their bicycles.
James, one of the worlds greatest writers, spent weeks painting thousands of stars on little girls bicycles in his garage and as he did so, he began to recover. He realised that he really did want to keep on creating things and as he did so, he was healing, something was coming back to life within him. He thought, ‘I will write about this someday’, when he thought this he realised he was free and the creator had returned.
Source: Clive James Poetry
This week, I wanted to share this poem by James entitled ‘Sentenced to Life’. I have matched @CatMorris – Cat Morris’s image of mobile photography with this poem. You can follow her on Instagram here.
To view the others we have published in this section, go here. To ensure your image receives our attention, please upload it to Instagram with this hashtag – #theappwhisperer