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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.