Benjamin Lytal writing for the Los Angeles Times (Sunday, November 23, 2008) about Clive James’s Opal Sunset: Selected Poems 1958-2008 passes a judgment that even staunch admirers of James’s work, such as myself, would find it difficult to argue with.
“Opal Sunset” contains poems of compact grace and steady, modest emotion. James’ lines, anchored by memorable phrases and obviously the production of a serious verbal talent, more than fulfill James’ meager definition of poetry, that it be sayable. But most readers of poetry want more. Looking, perhaps guiltily, for that je ne sais quoi they expect from poetry, they will find instead a wealth of cultural history and critical observation set to rhyme.