poem index

About this poet

Glyn Maxwell was born in 1962 in Welwyn Garden City, England. He studied English at Oxford University and both poetry and theatre with Derek Walcott at Boston University.

His first book of poetry, Tale of the Mayor's Son was published in 1990. Since then, he has published several collections, including Out of the Rain (Bloodaxe Books, 1992), for which he received a Somerset Maugham Award; Rest for the Wicked (Bloodaxe Books, 1995), which was shortlisted for both the Whitbread Poetry Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry; and The Breakage (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), which was shortlisted for both the T. S. Eliot and the Forward Poetry Prizes.

Most recently, he is the author of Pluto (Picador, 2013); One Thousand Nights and Counting: Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011); Hide Now (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), which was short-isted for both the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry and the Forward Poetry Prize; The Sugar Mile (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), a narrative collection that dramatizes several stories at once; The Nerve (Picador, 2002), which won the 2004 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; Time's Fool: A Tale in Verse (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and The Boys at Twilight: Poems 1990-1995 (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), also selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Maxwell also published On Poetry (Harvard University Press, 2013), a critical guidebook and edited The Poetry of Derek Walcott: 1948-2013 (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014).

He has written and staged several plays in London and New York. In 1997 he was awarded the E. M. Forester Prize from the Academy of Arts and Letters.

About Maxwell's work, the poet Joseph Brodsky has said, "Glyn Maxwell covers a greater distance in a single line than most people do in a poem. There is an extraordinary propulsion in his work, owing in part to his tendency to draw metaphor from syntax itself. He is a poet of immense promise and unforgettable delivery."

Maxwell served as poetry editor of The New Republic from 2001 to 2007. He is a regular contributor to Ian McMillan's BBC Radio 4's The Verb and reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Welsh Academy.

He lives in London and is a professor of writing at New York University and Essex University. 


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Pluto (Picador, 2013)
One Thousand Nights and Counting: Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011)
Hide Now (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)
The Sugar Mile (Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
The Nerve (Picador, 2002)
Time's Fool: A Tale in Verse (Houghton Mifflin, 2000)
The Boys at Twilight: Poems 1990-1995 (Houghton Mifflin, 2000)

Nonfiction

On Poetry (Harvard University Press, 2013)

 

Joey Awake Now

Glyn Maxwell, 1962
Some poems,
right some poems.

I'm a lover of poems.
And yes, we lovers of poems

must stick together. Don't mind me. Pardon? Glenn?
Glenn? Glenn. It is nice to meet you, Glenn.

You are thinking you are in luck.
Because look,

a strange old man has joined you at the bar.
How fortunate you are

this fine day. I beg your pardon? Indeed.
The secret's out. I am indeed

a man with English, how do you say Raul, issues,
exactly, English issues.

No, not for fifty years.
Hoboken Italian now for fifty years.

I'm English when there are wars.
I was English when there were wars.

Oh no you don't have to pretend
you give a damn. You came here to write, my friend,

then a sleepy old fool comes dropping by to tell you
what it was like in his day. Well I'll tell you:

I was extremely handsome. It took me
seconds to go to the bathroom. End of story.

Raul, the same for him and the same for me,
he's being much too polite. English, you see,

not like us. I'd have said Bugger off
by now. Raul doesn't get that, 'bugger off'

he thinks it's some kind of cool
new vodka, don't you, Raul?

Raul says he understands,
he understands

bugger off
it's what I was afraid of,

no secrets now, no secrets
for the Brits,

not from Americans
Glenn, no secrets from Americans.

The war?
Ah-ha.

Look at him, pen at the ready, like I could say
some poetry. We lovers of poetry.

What's so important in the world that you can't
stop the ride a moment,

open a little black
empty book

and remind the world you're blue? There's not a thing.
Burning building? Nothing.

Love of a lady?
'I am at work. Please ask her to wait in the lobby.'

His eyes are glazing over, he's remembering
something he's forgetting

something. If you ask me, to tell you,
Glenn, if you're sincerely truly going to,

I may
do so. I may

tell you a thing or two, I wouldn't do so,
I wouldn't—muchas gracias—I wouldn't do so,

only it's Saturday.
Not Saturday,

Black Saturday.
And in sixty years of rinso white Saturdays

it never did find
one to hide behind.

You go through morning into afternoon
and it's always sunny, Saturday, in rain

or snow or storm who cares?
you pass the hours,

you're free and the crowd is free and the whistle blows
a goal is scored, the long shot by a nose

then you happen to glance at the sky
and I say you I mean I . . .

I say you I mean I, me
riding on my bike and I

saw this mass of planes
in patterns they were their planes

and with the sky so thick
the light was weak, your hold on it was weak

your life so far
some kind of lucky break. They were everywhere

and in the day,
not in the night in the day like your worst fear suddenly

figured it out and came.
What's stopping us? I rode my bike straight home

to tell my gran and I'm pedalling for my life
I know they can see me up there! Hey Ralf

shoot zat paper boy or he'll never stop!
Never stop

telling ze vorld on us . . .
Raul's laughing at me. You're not? That's how it was.

Personal, kind of. Felt you were in their minds.
They were in our minds,

pale types, munching schnitzel! Here
well it's true they had thejaps but not here,

they didn't have them out of a blue sky
over the skyline on a Saturday.

September 7th. What do you mean it's the 8th?
The Saturday was the 7th, it wasn't the 8th.

He's telling me. Where do you come from? Pardon?
Say again what garden? Well-in-the-Garden?

Oh there.
Shredded Wheat's made there.

That was the sort of place we thought we'd get to.
Because we had to get to

somewhere, we were bombed out
on the first night of the thing. Or, we weren't bombed out

precisely, me and my gran,
she always believed what I told her, did my gran,

Mrs Katherine Mabel Stone.
Truth of the matter is, I had my own

reason for getting out.
It isn't a thing you know when it's happening. But

you're young,
you're wearing a wedding ring,

we figure it out in time.
You'll understand how it was if you give a damn.

And if you don't give a damn it'll still be there
a year or so anywhere

you find me. Soon I won't be giving one either.
Then you and I can give not a damn forever.

From The Sugar Mile by Glyn Maxwell. Copyright © 2005 by Glyn Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Glyn Maxwell

Glyn Maxwell

Glyn Maxwell was born in 1962 in Welwyn Garden City, England. He

by this poet

poem
In memory of Agha Shahid Ali

When a poet leaves to see to all that matters,
nothing has changed. In treasured places still
       he clears his head and writes.

None of his joie-de-vivre or books or friends
or ecstasies go with him to the piece
       he waits for and begins,

nor is he here in this.
poem
Sundays, like a stanza break
Or shower's end of all applause,
For some old unexplaining sake
The optimistic tread these shores,
As lonely as the dead awake
Or God among the dinosaurs.