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Glyn Maxwell's previous book, The Sugar Mile, was heralded as a bold expansion of the art of poetry. Hide Now, his newest collection, written in wry, colloquial language and employing a brilliant array of poetic forms, delivers a commentary on the icons and iconic moments of the present. With a vision both apocalyptic and comic, Maxwell takes us from Robespierre to Dick Cheney to Guns N' Roses, from the unearthly quiet of a war zone to the pompous flapping of a flag to the sound of a departed friend's voice: "a ...

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Overview

Glyn Maxwell's previous book, The Sugar Mile, was heralded as a bold expansion of the art of poetry. Hide Now, his newest collection, written in wry, colloquial language and employing a brilliant array of poetic forms, delivers a commentary on the icons and iconic moments of the present. With a vision both apocalyptic and comic, Maxwell takes us from Robespierre to Dick Cheney to Guns N' Roses, from the unearthly quiet of a war zone to the pompous flapping of a flag to the sound of a departed friend's voice: "a certain note / I almost hear, can almost manage / in this throat." Hide Now is further evidence that Maxwell is the most adept heir to the poetic legacies of W. H. Auden and Robert Frost; James Wood described him as "the major poet of his generation." Fierce, direct, and bristling with intelligence, Hide Now is a remarkable addition to the oeuvre of a truly original poet.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Wit, versatility and gloom are the watchwords in this ninth collection from the celebrated Englishman Maxwell. He worries about his own demise ("Do me my elegy now"), about the inefficacies and uncertainties in his own poetic language ("Dream I had had depended/ on puns"), about old age (in "Lit Windows," a fine if covert homage to Philip Larkin) and about ecological disaster. Maxwell's greatest concern, however, in the wake of 9/11, is about the fate of the world's great cities and of its all too bellicose nation-states. Maxwell holds the volume together with several poems on modern incarnations of the cursed ancient prophet Cassandra, whose predictions were always dismissed. He concludes with three such poems in a row, among them "Blues for Cassie," a haunting bit of cultural cross-pollination in which the fall of Troy becomes the fall of the Twin Towers: "Woke up as lonesome as the single/ snapshot at Grand Central-/ of thousands on a wall/ one endless fall." Maxwell's skill with the spoken language is on display again, as he stitches casual phrase work into bolts of meter and swaths of rhyme. Supporters will no doubt again liken him to Auden; detractors may once again find him a bit glib. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547154107
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/25/2008
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Glyn Maxwell is the author of nine books of poetry, including, most recently, The Sugar Mile. He is also a dramatist whose—plays have been staged in New York, Edinburgh, and London. His latest play,'Liberty,'had its world premiere in the summer of 2008—at Shakespeare's Globe.'Among other honors, he has won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the E. M. Forster Prize. He was the poetry editor of the New Republic from 2001 to 2007.'He lives in London.

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Read an Excerpt

Contents
The Old Lad 1
Flags and Candles 4
Forty Forty 6
A Play of the Word 7
Cassandra Tells Fortunes 12
Kaspar Hauser 14
Empire State 15
Ariadne to Theseus 16
Love Songs from Plays 18
Contours of Fall 20
Cassandra and the Night Watch 22
Rush 23
Element It Has 24
The Deal 25
One Thousand Nights and Counting 26
Martial Diptych 30
Tale of the Story-of-All-Stories 32
The Fool and She 37
The Tinsel Man 38
Dream-I-Believe 40
Fire Came 41
Rendition 42
The Switch 43
The Execution of Saint-Just at Thermidor 44
Old Smile at the Roast 45
Jones at Jonestown 46
Catworld 48
Cassandra and the King 49
A Walk by the Neva 50
Mandelstam 52
The Shivers 53
It Too Remains 54
All Things Bright 55
Country Birthday 56
Number Three 57
Long Journey 58
Lit Windows 60
Thinking: Earth 62
Hometown Mystery Cycle 66
Cassandra by the Wall 70
Blues for Cassie 71
Cassandra 72


The Old Lad
I close my eyes and see them waving cloths they found.
Rags and things a thousand feet above the ground.

Making calls they made and saying words they said.
Here comes a girl in red to be the girl in red.

There go the men in shirts. I will not focus in
on any face again and, as I focus in,

arms stretch out as if There goes the superstar!
I go on trying for years to not know who they are.

Looked for ways to cope with coping with this shit.
Woke up at four, damned if I hadn’t hit on it.

Smiled about it, thing my skull has always done.
United with the old lad, sang in unison.

Felt the soft foam falling from a rigid prow,
gainsaying all there is: Now don’t you worry now.

Couldn’t believe I’d cracked it, like the wide-eyed folk
who think all strangers function as a spy-network

making the stuff that makes the papers. Smiled a smile
beyond belief in presidential-spokesman style.

Ran back and forth a century from ape to ape
to seek what’s not okay by so sincere a gape . . .

Okay the neighbour’s starving and okay he’s here.
Okay a billion times the bit we gave last year

let’s funnel into rubbish bags and tie the ties.
Okay the trains are pulling out and full of eyes.

Okay to sport a badge, okay to wave a cloth.
Okay some went forever and some won’t sod off.

Okay the ones like Cheney, whom you mustn’t name
and spoil the poem, do the motherfucking same

as ever, and okay the poles to north and south
are vowels: meat and drink and sex to the one mouth

of the only lad, no worries. It is not a smile
that makes you ache. It won’t be over in a while

like mine, but I keep trying. Here it comes again,
and now I’m going to die one day and don’t care when,

why, with whom, or who remembers what I did.
The smile is wide and smaller only than the lid.

Do it in turbulence as well, I’m a total mess,
but beaming like a stewardess at the stewardess,

who learned to do it years ago from her old bones,
and can do it hissing info into hidden phones

when the time comes. I fly the blue Atlantic sky
in my last century and yours and by and by

my eyes are holes, my heart is air, my knuckles shine.
Only God controls the Fasten Seat Belt sign.

It’s all He does. I turn a frail page of grey
and all the news that’s fit to print this Saturday

is printed there this Saturday. The news that’s not,
the old lad’s grinning over in a book he’s got.

He’s pointing out what’s funny and it’s everything.
We’re starting our descent and I am done with him.

Flags and Candles
Flags line up an hour before they’re chosen,
wave back along the row at others like them.
Candles sit in boxes or lie still,

sealed, and each imagines what will happen.
Flags will not accept the explanation
of why they were not needed as they are now.

Candles feel they’re made of stuff that’s soft
for a good cause, though maybe not their own cause.
Tall flags love all flags if it’s their flags.

Small flags are okay about immense flags.
Candles doze in xylophones of colour,
thrilled their purpose may be merely pattern.

Flags are picked out one by one. The others
muster in the gap and say Gap, what gap?
Candles dream of something that will change them,

that is the making of and death of candles.
Flags don’t dream of anything but more flags.
The wind is blowing; only the landscape changes.

Candles have the ghost of an idea
exactly what the wick is for: they hope so.
Flags have learned you can’t see flags at nighttime,

no way, not even giants in a windstorm.
Candles learn that they may do their damnedest
and go unnoticed even by old candles.

When I wave flags, flags think it’s the world waving
while flags are holding fast. When I light candles,
candles hold the breath that if it came

would kill them; then we tremble like our shadows.
Flags know nothing but they thump all morning.
Candles shed a light and burn to darkness.

Forty Forty
History covered its eyes and counted the way
kids count: getting faster
then slowing to halves, quarters, sixteenths
but nonetheless faster,

faster in words but slower and slower to reach
like Zeno’s arrow,
though finally all the way to some fat figure
ending in zero.

Then History turned and blinked: right there
stood a boy by a hedgerow,
holding his hands to his eyes and saying
I’m coming to get you!

And his confidence in a game he had
quite misunderstood
was awful to see and if History didn’t correct him
others would,

so History ventured slowly towards him
and—I don’t know how—
very gently took little hands in big hands and said
hide now.

A Play of the Word
Something was done and she ran from a town
and I’m glad it was done or she wouldn’t have come,
but she wouldn’t have gone and she’s long gone now,
so I’m wondering why and remembering how.

Her hair was the various colours of leaves
in the fall in a heap as we watched her asleep
and we stood there like words with the ink still wet,
as reminders of something she’d likely forget,

or read in the morning and scrunch in a ball.
Her eyes were so wide that they had a seaside
and a faraway sail in one eye then the other
till I envied my brother and I’ve not got a brother.

Her mouth had this shape that it made and you can’t,
we tried it all week and our lower lips ached
as we pointed this out and she didn’t know how
she was doing it. I’m sort of doing it now.

Her hands were so delicate delicate things
were careful with them and the length of her arm
was an hour when I saw it at rest on a sill
with a twig in its hand that’s in my hand still.

Her body was everything nobody knew
and discussed in the dark till it wasn’t that dark
but her feet were so callused they made it clear
We two will be getting her out of here.

Something was done and she ran from a town
and I’m glad it was done or she wouldn’t have come,
but she wouldn’t have gone and she’s long gone now,
so I’m wondering why and remembering how.

You all have your tales and we too have a tale
in the form of a play that we stage in the day,
it’s a play of the Lord, it’s a play of the Word:
if it had to be written it has to be heard.

And we opened the barn for the costumes and sets
that have always been there and the dust on the air
would set us all sneezing and telling old jokes
of old times and old shows in old years with old folks.

And one was the Maker and one was the Man,
and one was the Angel and one was the Stranger,
and all the old lines were as fresh as cold beer
in a morning in March in that field over there.

But she was so puzzled her mouth did that thing
and her eyes were a mist and her hand was a fist
that she held to her chin till our play was complete.
Then she started to laugh. She was right by that gate.

It isn’t for laughter we play in our show.
It’s not at all funny. It isn’t for money,
it isn’t for love. But she laughed and her eyes
were the fog as it shrugs in the face of sunrise,

and her ribs were the sea in the shirt she wore:
we were sickened to follow its suck and its swell,
she was out of our reach, she had always been,
but that was our choice, if you see what I mean.

Something was done and she ran from a town
and I’m glad it was done or she wouldn’t have come,
but she wouldn’t have gone and she’s long gone now,
so I’m wondering why and remembering how.

Why are you laughing, we wanted to say,
till one of us did and we wanted to hide,
and her glistening eyes had no answer to that,
so we waited like birds for her swallowing throat

to be still and it was, and she stared at the ground
like a book of her own to be counted upon.
Everything here is made out of card.
Take light from the World and you’re left with the Word

which she seemed to be trying to show in the dust
as we crowded to see and could never agree
what she said after that—that our Maker was sick
of his Word? That our souls could be drawn with a stick?

That our Man was a rainbow, our Angel should hang?
Or the other way round? But whichever way round
there was nothing to do but the next thing we did,
which was take it in turns to repeat what she said

having tiptoed unnoticed away on our own
to the elders and olders who had to be told
what a creature she was and how little she knew
and how hard she was laughing and what we should do.

But I was among the ones crowding her light
so her shadow was gone but I wasn’t the one
who asked her to tell us what should have been done,
in a voice with arms folded and uniform on.

Something was done and she ran from a town
and I’m glad it was done or she wouldn’t have come,
but she wouldn’t have gone and she’s long gone now,
so I’m wondering why and remembering how.

And he asked her to say what the Maker would say
and a few ran away. I did not run away
but I want to have done, so I sit on this gate
where there’s nothing to wait for at all and I wait.

And she looked at who’d said it and looked at who’d not
and she stood and she started to speak from her heart
what the Maker would say. I can say this to you.
For who lives in this shell of a town but we two?

The elders assembled like stones in a boat
but it sailed as it could, while it could, when it could,
and then I saw nothing and now I see all
and I wait and there’s nothing to wait for at all.

And the wind caught the fire with the last of its strength,
the fire they began for what had to be done,
but the fire caught the town and it burned in my eyes
till my eyes were the desert an hour from sunrise.

And I talk of we two, but it’s me on this gate,
with an echo of wind when the song has an end,
but the wind didn’t do what I too didn’t do,
and we won’t breathe a word till there’s reason to.

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Table of Contents

The Old Lad 1

Flags and Candles 4

Forty Forty 6

A Play of the Word 7

Cassandra Tells Fortunes 12

Kaspar Hauser 14

Empire State 15

Ariadne to Theseus 16

Love Songs from Plays 18

Contours of Fall 20

Cassandra and the Night Watch 22

Rush 23

Element It Has 24

The Deal 25

One Thousand Nights and Counting 26

Martial Diptych 30

Tale of the Story-of-All-Stories 32

The Fool and She 37

The Tinsel Man 38

Dream-I-Believe 40

Fire Came 41

Rendition 42

The Switch 43

The Execution of Saint-Just at Thermidor 44

Old Smile at the Roast 45

Jones at Jonestown 46

Catworld 48

Cassandra and the King 49

A Walk by the Neva 50

Mandelstarn 52

The Shivers 53

It Too Remains 54

All Things Bright 55

Country Birthday 56

Number Three 57

Long Journey 58

Lit Windows 60

Thinking: Earth 62

Hometown Mystery Cycle 66

Cassandra by the Wall 70

Blues for Cassie 71

Cassandra 72

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