It was only after the culture writer David Free submitted an essay for this month's ALR on James's recent work that a picture began to emerge, from the lines of his own poetry, of not one but several life-threatening conditions.
Free notes that in a recent poem, Vertical Envelopment, James refers to hospitalisations for emphysema and a blood clot, and a diagnosis of leukemia.
So I wrote to James asking for details of his condition. "In January 2010, in Cambridge, I got hauled in for kidney failure," he replied. "I was immediately diagnosed for everything else as well, including several lung diseases and a version of leukemia that is supposed to develop slowly but in my case couldn't wait to get started, mainly in my lungs."
He is also serialising a poetry notebook for publication in book form a few years down the line - "if I am still around".
Before his illness James had started writing poems that, he tells me, "summed up themes I had been pursuing all my life". His struggle with illness and mortality served to deepen this contemplative mood. "I felt quite wise as I lay there taking pills," he offers.
Full story at The Australian.