The Breakage: Poems

The Breakage: Poems

by Glyn Maxwell
     
 

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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

Overview


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.

Editorial Reviews

Adam Kirsch
[This book] shares with his earlier books a dexterity, a daring, and a wit that are very rare in poetry today; but it also goes beyond them toward a new tone, more somber and earnest.
New Republic
Stephen Whited
Maxwell will be vilified by some critics for this book because he has turned from language experimentation of the sort he’s used in the past to the conventional rhymed lines with five stresses used by William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, Philip Larkin and others who are his poetic models. A Welshman by lineage, Maxwell has discovered a taste for the dramatic monologue and a music reminiscent of James Merrill’s enchanting and comic rhymes and long poems. In a sequence of letters written to Edward Thomas (a friend of Frost’s, this young poet, who was killed in France at the end of World War I, has become a kind of patron saint to hack writers and promising poets) Maxwell creates a moving emotional foundation for the other poems in the collection. In this menagerie of engaging voices, Maxwell has produced some of his best work.
Andy Brumer
...[B]lends the brutally honest introspection of American poets like Frost and Lowell with accessible, lighthearted language reminiscent of mid-20th-century British masters like Auden and Betjeman....[T]he ''breakage'' of the book's title serves as a neat metaphor for poetry's capacity to shatter the often dark block of human experience into beacons of meaning and light.
The New York Times Book Review \
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Andy Brumer
...[B]lends the brutally honest introspection of American poets like Frost and Lowell with accessible, lighthearted language reminiscent of mid-20th-century British masters like Auden and Betjeman....[T]he ''breakage'' of the book's title serves as a neat metaphor for poetry's capacity to shatter the often dark block of human experience into beacons of meaning and light.
The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618126965
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/24/2001
Edition description:
1ST MARINE
Pages:
95
Product dimensions:
(w) x (h) x 0.75(d)

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Read an Excerpt


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.

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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