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Clive James talks about his new poetry collection Sentenced to Life

Clive James talks to Kirsty Lang about his new poetry collection, Sentenced to Life, which looks back over his life and considers his situation as he manages his terminal illness.

Clive James is a poet, essayist, novelist, documentarist, critic, memoirist, talk show host, translator, travel writer and cultural commentator.

Since Clive announced he is in the latter stages of a terminal illness he has produced a series of heart-rending yet clear-eyed poems called Sentenced to Life, looking back over his life and considering his situation.

Kirsty Lang went to Clive's home in Cambridge to talk to him about the poems which are full of regret and guilt. He admits he was a faithless husband and absent father, especially during the 80s and 90s when his phenomenal television success took him away from home, and brought him over ten million viewers. The poems, he says, are his way of getting 'square with the world'.

The poem Japanese Maple went viral last summer - it's a beautiful account of a man at the end of his days, who's never been interested in botany, watching the changes in the tree his daughter planted for him. In autumn the leaves turn a flame red, and Clive never thought he would live to see it. As he tells Kirsty, he loves this extra time, reading, writing, listening to music and enjoying the company of his family, who all live nearby. He also explains that people have two choices when they get very sick - to kiss everybody goodbye and lie there and wait, or to go ahead as if you're going to live forever. He has chosen the latter.

Presenter : Kirsty Lang
Producer : Dymphna Flynn.

Available now

30 minutes

Poetry by Clive James

Poetry by Clive James
Read Japanese Maple, Sentenced to Life, and many more poems by Clive James on his website here.


Role Contributor
Presenter Kirsty Lang
Producer Dymphna Flynn
Interviewed Guest Clive James




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