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This review is taken from PN Review 209, Volume 39 Number 3, January - February 2013.

In Plain View and Morning Light glyn maxwell, On Poetry (Oberon Books) £12.99

In On Poetry Glyn Maxwell delivers his wholesome reflections on a 'creaturely' art, which has evolved in response to human needs and harmonies. In 170 pages he manages to be both passionate and relaxed, delivering shrewd observations in a style which entertains as it teaches.

On Poetry may well be 'a book for anyone', as Maxwell claims at the beginning, but it would be a particularly good one for sixth formers and undergraduates (his frequent references to popular music and film suggest as much). Maxwell, a 'wryly cheerful monk', is all energy in his proselytising. As part of his greater Writing Workshop, we are periodically in the company of four invented students: Bella, Ollie, Mimi and Wayne. They are shades of his own apprentice experience and, given that that included a stint with Derek Walcott at Boston University, one is wise to listen closely.

I have to admit that as an older reader I was wary of starting out with him on the green savannah, a creature gazing out into the lens of evolutionary psychologists. I was not sure I wanted to go back to school ('Stanza is the Italian word for - look it up'). I wondered if I was the killjoy the author was addressing: 'If you don't like games like this you really shouldn't have come this far.' Perhaps, I thought, I'd be more comfortable with my Stillman, my Hollander or my Parini.

Nevertheless I was soon won over by ...


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