Cover image for The breakage : poems
The breakage : poems
Maxwell, Glyn, 1962-
Personal Author:
First Houghton Mifflin edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

Physical Description:
81 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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PR6063.A869 B74 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A series of verse letters to the English poet Edward Thomas, killed in the First World War, forms the centerpiece of this remarkable collection. Like most of the poems, it expresses a deep concern for England, past and present. Other poems, whether lyrical or narrative, comic or contemplative, explore love and fatherhood, triumph and longing. Some are adventures from the known to the ineffable; some draw on the poet's travels and his time living in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Author Notes

Glyn Maxwell was born in 1962 in Hertfordshire, England. He studied English at Oxford & poetry at Boston University. Among the honors he has received are the Somerset Maugham Prize & the E.M. Forster Prize. He now lives with his wife & their daughter in Massachusetts, where he teaches at Amherst College.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Despite their density of language, Maxwell's metrically regular, often rhymed poems flow smoothly and register vividly on the imagination. None is more vivid than the first, in which parishioners discover that "Someone broke [the] beautiful / All-colored window" of their church--a happenstance as disillusioning about the inviolability of beauty as the moment when, at the poem's end, children, "thinking they can help," cut their fingers on the glass shards. Many subsequent poems are about travels and their consequences: the poet's grandfather's to France in World War I; a disappointed child's with his family around London on a wasted holiday; the ill-fated Scott's expedition to the South Pole; the poet's own to Brazil (glitteringly capped by participation in a New Year's Day flotilla); and, in a poem sequence, the poet's retracing the English countryside rambles during which Robert Frost convinced Edward Thomas to write poetry. Others are more purely meditative lyrics, though often with travel metaphors in them. These are moving poems, then--brilliant and frequently amusing ones, too. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 imageryÄ"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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



THE BREAKAGE Someone broke our beautiful All-coloured window.They were saints He broke, or she or it broke.They were Colours you can't get now. Nothing else was touched. Only our Treasured decoration, while it Blackened in its calm last night, light Dead in it, like He is. Now needles of all length and angle Jab at air.They frame a scene Of frosty meadows, all our townsmen Bobbing here to mourn this, To moan and wonder what would mount And ride so far to grieve us, Yet do no more than wink and trash, Not climb down in here even. Most eyes are on the woods, though, Minds on some known figures. At least until they too turn up here, Sleep-white, without stories. Things it could have done in here It hasn't done. It left it all The way it was, in darkness first, now This, the dull light day has. We kneel and start. And blood comes Like luck to the blue fingers Of children thinking they can help, Quick as I can warn them. Copyright 1998 by Glyn Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. Excerpted from The Breakage: Poems by Glyn Maxwell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.