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This review is taken from PN Review 89, Volume 19 Number 3, January - February 1993.

THE ATTRACTION OF OPPOSITES Glyn Maxwell, Out of the Rain (Bloodaxe Books) £6.95 pb. Poetry Society Recommendation
Kamau Brathwaite, Middle Passages (Bloodaxe Books) £6.95 pb

It is startling to turn from the front cover of Out of the Rain, with its Doisneau photograph of five Parisian girls soaking up the sun on a cafe terrace, to the back of the book, where the soulful young poet - black singlet, black snap-brim hat with white hatband (Chicago style), designer stubble, cleft chin, and bulging biceps (pyknic but very cute) - leans wistfully out of the darkness, towards the light that shines on the unattainable girls on the other side of his book. Just below the Maxwell snap - modish, sweet-natured, perhaps a little coy - is a set of statements - harrumphs, really - from the likes of Derek Walcott, Joseph Brodsky, Peter Porter, that tell us Maxwell is an astonishingly original poet of unforgettable delivery, 'one of the few poets of recent years to have invented a style'. The startle factor is particularly pronounced if one has read all of Maxwell's poems before reading the encomia, most of which might be more properly applied to the Brathwaite collection, Middle Passages.

All Bloodaxe has given Brathwaite is a blurb that wouldn't enlighten and enlist a new reader, and a ghastly cover with four dismal old photos reproduced in red and yellow, and a slave ship that looks like a corncob, all superimposed on a map linking Africa with the States, by way of the West Indies. His photo - strong profile, grey beard, academic specs - is not so atmospheric as Maxwell's, and ...


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