9780395963203 / 0395963206

The Breakage: Poems


Publisher:Houghton Mifflin



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About the book:

In the first poem of a moving collection vandals break the speaker's stained-glass window. Here and throughout this slim yet weighty volume we are graced with Maxwell's ability to wrestle iambs, like an Auden or a Frost, into conversational tones: "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." The speaker and his children proceed to gather the shards, the "needles of all length", cutting their fingers as they work. Such a brilliant beginning poignantly reflects the perils of loving and fathering in a war-scarred, time-marching world.

Together with his deftness in metrical matters, Maxwell also displays a strong gift for emotional range. One moment he is the consummate wit, riffing along in "Deep Sorriness Atonement Song" ("The man who sold Manhattan for a halfway decent bangle, / He had talks with Adolf Hitler and could see it from his angle, /And he could have signed the Quarreymen but didn't think they'd make it / So he bought a cake on Pudding Lane and thought 'Oh well I'll bake it'"); the next he is most serious, as in the awe-inspiring "My Grandfather at the Pool":

Merseysiders, grinning and wire-thin,
Still balanced, not too late to not go in,

Or feint to but then teeter on a whim.
The only one who turned away is him,

About to live the trenches and survive,
Alone, as luck would have it, of the five.

Four gazing at us levelly, one not.
Another pal decided on this shot,

Looked down into the box and said I say
And only James looked up and then away.

I narrow my own eyes until they blur.
In a blue sneeze of a cornfield near Flers

In 1969, he went Near here

It happened and he didn't say it twice.
It's summer and the pool will be like ice.
Maxwell is a gifted craftsmen, bringing energy, beauty and bold risk-taking to the poetic page. --Martha Silano

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