The Breakage: Poems

Glyn Maxwell, Author
Glyn Maxwell, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $22 (81p) ISBN 978-0-395-96320-3
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-618-12696-5
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-0-571-19337-0
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Like a younger Thom Gunn or Paul Muldoon, U.K. phenom Maxwell (Out of the Rain) is comfortably settled on these shores, issuing this fourth collection from his base camp at Amherst College. Maxwell's extraordinary virtuosity first brought him renown, and it is often on show here, as the close of ""Rio Negro"": ""My cabin window's black as the reply/ Of rivers to the I and its ideas/ Eroding them to barely one, but I/ At least am moving, like the Rio Negro,/ Somewhere coming helplessly to light,/ And even nothing, signing itself zero,/ Is paying homage like a satellite."" The book's centerpiece is a set of 11 ""Letters to Edward Thomas"" (""Dear Edward Thomas, Frost died, I was born."") that pay complex homage to the iconic WWI poet. Anglophiles will revel in Maxwell's phrasing, characters and imagery--""mum's kiss""; ""Great-Uncle Albert""; ""Mercysiders""; ""the business end of Oxford"" ""Back Gardens in Early Morning,"" even if they seem intended to invoke the quotidian. Beyond verbal pyrotechnics and the rarity of a born rhymer's ease, however, few readers will find anything particularly compelling or sustaining about most of Maxwell's poems; for all their gallant charm (one poem apologizes for a missed BBC appearence) they risk very little. (Mar.)
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