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4.6 out of 5 stars20
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 15 October 2012
Inspiring to a young poet. Engrossing for an older reader of poetry. Uses great examples of old and modern classic poems. There was a good review in the Guardian which led us to it. Very good on the 'black' and 'white' of a poem; spaces, pauses, line breaks, punctuation, structure generally. His playful tone and use of a metaphorical tutorial group to demonstrate different styles and approaches was entertaining to us, although some people might find it odd.
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on 20 December 2012
Which, since I'm an English graduate and former teacher, and most of the poems he takes his examples from are very familiar to me, is saying a good deal. I don't think I've ever read anything which so clearly distinguishes how the experience of both reading and writing poetry differs from other kinds of aesthetic experience. And also a lot of it is very funny: it's a creative work in its own right. I think anyone seriously interested in poetry should buy it.
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on 5 September 2012
On Poetry by Glyn Maxwell is a thrilling book. There aren't many thrilling books in the world and very few about poetry. I hate giving stars but if I could I'd go for 4.75. I don't have time to be eloquent so here are some numbered points (wake up at the back...):

1. This book is in a hurry. I like that. It is terse and sometimes impatient. Good. It is a short, quick read and there is every possibility that I'll read it again.

2. It starts with white space. How poetry is placed on that or in that white space. How poetry isn't like prose. How poetry isn't like song. That's a really good bit, how poetry isn't like song. We all know this, don't we, instinctively? We know that even the words of best, the very best song writers are daft without music, so they aren't poetry. Full stop. Thank you very much. I paraphrase and I'm in a hurry, as I say, but that's the gist of it and very refreshing too.

3. It talks about line-endings. It respects line-endings. I'm obsessing here, I know, but line-endings are obviously very important, although so much poetry is written and published by poets who don't seem to think line-endings are anything other than lawn edging strips (you know, the green corrugated ones). Glyn Maxwell's point is, I think, that form means something and you'd better believe it.

4. It talks about 'pulse' and 'chime', the rhythm and noise of poetry (but these are described so much more accurately). Those two titles, 'pulse' and 'chime', just seem so right; not slavishly counting beats or ladling on the assonance, but knowing what's going on in a poem, as a writer and a reader; the music which is not music.

5. And it suggests, gloriously, that having poems voiced by trained actors is a good thing, useful, interesting, not something to be frightened of. We don't get to the bottom of why so many poets are so wary of this because there's no time and this is not a book that has time to waste. So let's just believe Maxwell's right. Hey, he's right.

So, that's it. Not a review but a short list. And what I liked most was the underlying sense that to write good poems or/and to be a deep reader of poems it might be necessary to do a little bit of work... Not 'cryptic crossword, footnotes galore, knowing Ancient Greek' work, but 'listening carefully and noticing (by eye but also by ear) what's going on in a poem' work. Fair enough. Why not? The best poems are going to last hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years, so let's give them some time, now.

Read this book if you want to go back to poetry with renewed vigour. Read it if you want to be reminded about why some lines of poetry have effortless class (there's a killer line from Hamlet given as an example; just so good) while so many other lines of poetry don't. Read it if you want to question every poem that comes your way - your own and other people's - in a more than superficial (do I understand it, have I nodded in agreement, am I jealous) way.

And it is very well written: full of invention and imagaination. Full of fun.

Finally, thank you, Glyn Maxwell, for not writing a book about how we can all turn our life experiences into prize winning poems. Those books exist. Good. This is not one of them. Great.
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on 18 August 2012
Glyn Maxwell's book is beautifully and provocatively written - I decided to buy a copy after reading a review that excerpted a few passages and wasn't disappointed. I imagine his claims and arguments - written from a highly individual perspective - will probably be more appreciated by people who, through their reading or own writing, have already formed strong opinions on what makes poetry, makes it work, makes it different from prose, different from song lyric, because this is a book to give one second or third thoughts about all those things. And the richly associative way the book is structured, as well as the fundamental topics it covers, is a welcome departure from literary text-book-ese. Highly recommended.
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on 24 March 2013
This one is getting a five-star halo effect. Caveat lector.

Maxwell has great facility with words and interesting thoughts on poetry but he is also a contrarian. He is chippy about having been labelled a neocon but bickers repeatedly about free verse (cf the example supposedly retrieved from a factory floor), which he simply travesties rather than engaging with the output of Lawrence or any number of American poets of the twentieth and twenty first centuries who have formed their lines from the weight/sense/relationship of words or the rhythms of conversation rather than obeying the diktat of the metronome. Maxwell is fixated on the measured beat and even ploughs an unrewarding furrow in defence of the contemporary verse play.

He sneers too at English teachers, who he blames for not skilling up their charges and for endorsing "so-called 'free' verse". I would love to see him get an all-ability class of eleven-year-olds writing worthwhile pentameter. No chance, pal. But let them loose in a free-verse playground, with words and images as magic toys, and no because-you-have-to requirement to bang 'bold' crassly against 'cold', and any of them can reach angelic heights. Of course the historic and global heritage must be taught all the way to A Level and beyond but for goodness sake, loosen up, Glyn. You're meant to be on our side, not Gove's!

As well as the contrariety there are the contradictions. In his creative writing classes Maxwell styles himself 'the professor', the authority figure, while recording the sessions in feet-on-the-table, cool dude prose. There is lots of games-playing and second-guessing. It sounds like a stressful environment, not least when he slyly rewards the gullible student with
the prize of making the coffee.

In short, I enjoyed the book for Maxwell's undoubted insights into how verse is made. But the impatient, doctrinaire tone in the voice is a significant detraction.

And one for Kindle readers: could you read the final chapter, TIME? I couldn't. The font is microscopic and would not enlarge.
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on 29 August 2014
Entered sceptical tired of academic outlook deciding creative reality. Quickly fell in love wit a beautifully written and helpful guide to more creativity thank you
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on 11 November 2013
I bought this as present for my mother. She loves it and was pleasantly surprised when it arrived from amazon. It was on time for her birthday.
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on 22 March 2014
Maxwell takes you on an intuitive journey through poetry. I think I have learnt more through this book than all those how to books out there
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on 25 January 2013
This is a beautifully written inspirational book for anyone interested in writing poetry or reading and appreciating the poet's craft.
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on 28 January 2016
Glyn Maxwell writes with wit and serious wisdom about the art of contemporary poetry. If you're looking for a beginner's book to explain the craft, this is not it; it's a slightly exasperated but always entertaining manifesto for Maxwell. But if you read contemporary poetry, this may illuminate your reading and help you to put your finger on what defines success or pretension.
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