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The Australian book you've finally got time to read: Sentenced to Life by Clive James


For The Erratics author Vicki Laveau-Harvie, James’s slim but dazzling collection shows that poetry can be the antidote to the numbness many of us feel

Walking home recently under grey skies, I stopped to watch the afternoon light fail. I could have looked at my phone for comfort, but I found myself instead listening to Shakespeare spooling through my mind, words not remembered since school but intact, beautiful, despairing:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time.

Related: The Australian book you've finally got time for: On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Related: The Unmissables: The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie – a memoir of entirely its own genre

No-one grits
Like Sly: it looks like a piano sneering.

When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

A final flood of colours will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

Snow into April. Frost night after night.
Out on the Welsh farms the lambs die unborn.


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