Nefertiti in the Flak Tower by Clive James

Source: Liveright
Hardcover, 96 pages
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Nefertiti in the Flak Tower by Clive James is a collection of rhyming and metered poems that relies heavily on history, particularly that of WWII, to make connections about the resiliency of human kind in the face of horrifying adversity.  The title poem, Nefertiti in the Flak Tower, does use the history of the Nefertiti bust as a German treasure that was moved and protected in a Flak Tower during WWII, towers that were built to protect cities like Berlin from air raids with guns and shelter citizens.  Beyond the historically based poems, there are poems about the life of a writer and his friends and how even these glamorous lives of signing books can become mundane, but there are those moments that make even the most thankless jobs worthwhile.

From "Grief Has Its Time" (page 81)

"Free of such burdens, I pursue my course
Supposing myself blessed with the light touch,
A blithesome ease my principal resource.
Sometimes on stage I even say as much,

Or did, till one night in the signing queue
An ancient lady touched my wrist and said
I'd made her smile the way he used to do
When hearts were won by how a young man read

Aloud, and decent girls were led astray
By sweet speech. "Can you put his name with mine?
Before the war, before he went away,
We used to read together." Last in line

She had all my attention, so I wrote"

James comes across as both romantic and removed.  The rhyming poems can linger in the mind when the emotion is clear and connects with the reader, but there are other occasions when the rhymes seem forced and throw off the rhythm of the poem, creating a disconnect between the reader and the subject.  Nefertiti in the Flak Tower by Clive James is a mix of some really great poems that will leave a lasting impression and those that fall a little flat on first and second reading.

Book 10 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.




16th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.




For today’s 2014 National Poetry Month: Reach for the Horizon tour stop, click the image below:

Mailbox Monday #263

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has gone through a few incarnations from a permanent home with Marcia to a tour of other blogs.

Now, it has its own permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Late Parade by Adam Fitzgerald for review W.W. Norton’s Liveright Publishing.

Adam Fitzgerald “is a born poet whose extraordinary gift for phrasing, music, and verbal invention distinguish him from any young poet I know writing today,” writes Mark Strand about the twenty-nine-year-old American newcomer who follows “in the line of Arthur Rimbaud, Wallace Stevens, and John Ashbery” (Maureen McLane). Fitzgerald, whose title poem “carries the primal vision of Hart Crane into a future that does not surrender the young poet’s love of the real” (Harold Bloom), has already published in the Boston Review, A Public Space, Conjunctions, and the Brooklyn Rail and has become a poetic lightning rod in the East Village and other avant-garde settings. Here, in The Late Parade, he presents 48 poems that “fire dance around meaning itself” (Boston Review) yet help to redefine the modernist vision for the twenty-first-century with near-demonic displays of sonorous density and manic verbal fertility. This dazzling debut collection will be sure to “cause a commotion.”

2.  Nefertiti in the Flak Tower by Clive James for review from W.W. Norton’s Liveright Publishing.

Clive James’ power as a poet has increased year by year, and there has been no stronger evidence for this than Nefertiti in the Flak Tower. Here, his polymathic learning and technical virtuosity are worn more lightly than ever; the effect is merely to produce a deep sense of trust into which the reader gratefully sinks, knowing they are in the presence of a master. The most obvious token of that mastery is the book’s breathtaking range of theme: there are moving elegies, a meditation on the later Yeats, a Hollywood Iliad, odes to rare orchids, wartime typewriters and sharks – as well as a poem on the fate of Queen Nefertiti in Nazi Germany. But despite the dizzying variety, James’ poetic intention becomes increasingly clear: what marks this new collection out is his intensified concentration on the individual poem as self-contained universe. Poetry is a practice he compares (in ‘Numismatics’) to striking new coin; and Nefertiti in the Flak Tower is a treasure-chest of one-off marvels, with each poem a twin-sided, perfect human balance of the unashamedly joyous and the deadly serious, ‘whose play of light pays tribute to the dark’.

3.  Walking Home: A Poet’s Journey by Simon Armitage from W.W. Norton’s Liveright Publishing.

The wandering poet has always been a feature of our cultural imagination. Odysseus journeys home, his famous flair for storytelling seducing friend and foe. The Romantic poets tramped all over the Lake District searching for inspiration. Now Simon Armitage, with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation, as well as a wry humor all his own, has taken on Britain’s version of our Appalachian Trail: the Pennine Way. Walking “the backbone of England” by day (accompanied by friends, family, strangers, dogs, the unpredictable English weather, and a backpack full of Mars Bars), each evening he gives a poetry reading in a different village in exchange for a bed. Armitage reflects on the inextricable link between freedom and fear as well as the poet’s place in our bustling world. In Armitage’s own words, “to embark on the walk is to surrender to its lore and submit to its logic, and to take up a challenge against the self.”

4.  Pansy in Paris: A Mystery at the Museum by Cynthia Bardes, illustrated by Virginia Best for review and Wiggles.

Pansy, the poodle who lives at the Palace Hotel in Beverly Hills and Avery, the little girl who adopted her, are off on a new adventure in Pansy in Paris. The two travel to the City of Lights to solve a new mystery: who is stealing paintings from the museum? With only one clue and their boundless curiosity, the two follow the trail, foil the thieves, and recover the missing artwork having great fun as they explore a beautiful new city and enjoy its treasures. Pansy and Avery learn about the joy of travel, the satisfaction of a job well done, and the special pleasure of teamwork.”

5.  The Nose Book by Al Perkins, illustrated by Joe Mathieu for Wiggles from her auntie Kelly for her birthday.

In this Bright and Early Book, Perkins offers a super-simple look at noses of all kinds, colors, and shapes, including their multiple uses and maddening maladies!

6.  Images of War: War in the Balkans: The Battle for Greece and Crete 1940-1941 by Jeffrey Plowman for review from the publisher.

Jeffrey Plowman s photographic history traces the course of the entire Balkan campaign from the first moves of the Italians through Albania and the invasion of Jugoslavia and Bulgaria by German forces through to the battle for Greece and the final airborne assault on Crete. He gives equal weight to every stage of the campaign he doesn t just combine the first stages and treat them as an introduction to the battle for Crete and he covers all the forces involved the Germans, the Greeks, and the Commonwealth troops. By shifting the focus to the mainland, he views the campaign as a whole, and he offers a balanced portrayal of a conflict that is often overlooked in histories of this phase of the Second World War. Most of the graphic photographs he has selected have never been published before, and many come from private sources.

What did you receive?