Maxwell, Glyn 1962-

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Maxwell, Glyn 1962-


Born November 7, 1962, in Welwyn Garden City, England; son of James (a doctor) and Mary Maxwell; married Honorable Geraldine Harmsworth, 1997 (died, 1998); Alfreda. Education: Attended Worcester, College, Oxford University, B.A.; attended Boston University, 1987-88.


Home—New York, NY. Agent—Antony Harwood, Anthony Harwood Limited, 109 Riverbank House, 1 Putney Bridge Approach, London SW6 3JD, England.


Writer and editor. WH Allen & Co, editorial assistant, 1989; poet and freelance editor and writer 1989—; Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, writing fellow, 1995; University of Warwick, writer in residence, 1997; Amherst College, MA, visiting writer, 1997-2000; the New School, New York, NY, adjunct professor, 2002-03; Columbia University, New York, NY, adjunct professor, 2002—; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, adjunct professor, 2003-04; New York University, New York, NY, adjunct professor, 2005-06.


Eric Gregory award, 1991; Poetry Book Society Choice for Tale of the Mayor's Son, and recommendation for Out of the Rain; Somerset Maugham award for Out of the Rain; E.M. Forster Prize from American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1997; Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, 1999; Fellow of the Welsh Academy, 2000; British Theatre Guide's Best Play on the Fringe, Edinburgh Festival, 2004, for The Lifeblood; Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, 2004, for The Nerve.



Tale of the Mayor's Son, Dufour Editions (Chester Springs, PA), 1990.

Out of the Rain, Bloodaxe (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK), 1992.

Rest for the Wicked, Bloodaxe (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK), 1995.

The World They Mean: A New Poem, drawings by Mary Griffiths, Clarion (Geneseo, NY), 1997.

The Breakage, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1999, reprinted, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.

Time's Fool: A Tale in Verse, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2000.

The Boys at Twilight: Poems, 1990-1995, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2000.

The Nerve, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.

The Sugar Mile, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005, reprinted, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.


Gnyss the Magnificent: Three Verse Plays, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1993.

Wolfpit: The Tale of the Green Children of Suffolk, Arc Publications (Todmorden, Lancs, United Kingdom), 1996.

The Forever Waltz (produced in New York, NY, at the WorkShop Theater, 2005), Oberon Books (London, England), 2005.

Plays One (contains The Lifeblood, Wolfpit, and The Only Girl in the World), Oberon Books (London, England), 2005.

Plays Two (contains Broken Journey, Best Man's Speech, and The Last Valentine) Oberon Books (London, England), 2006.

Also author of opera libretti, including The Girl of Sand for the Almeida Theatre, in collaboration with the composer Elena Langer; a libretto based on Euripides' The Birds, composed by Ed Hughes for the Opera Group, performed at the City of London Festival, 2005; and the radio play, Childminders, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio 3, 2002.


Blue Burneau (novel), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1994.

(With Simon Armitage) Moon Country: Further Reports from Iceland (nonfiction), Faber and Faber (London, England), 1996.

Contributor to anthologies, including Poetry with an Edge, 1988; Poetry Book Society Anthology, 1988, 1990, 1991; Soho Square, 1991; New Writing, 1991, 1992; Penguin Modern Poets 3, 1995; British Poetry Since 1945, 1998; The Firebox, 1998; Scanning the Century, 1999; The Best of English Poetry (audio tape), 1999; Plays the Heart in Hiding, 1995; Wolfpit, 1996; The Firebox: Poetry in Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1998; The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945, 1998; Broken Journey, 1999; The Harvill Book of Twentieth-Century Poetry in English, 1999; Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry, 1999; Anyroad, 2000; The Last Valentine, 2000; The Only Girl in the World, 2001; and The Lifeblood, 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including the Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, Vogue, New Statesman, Spectator, Independent, Independent on Sunday, Sunday Times, Poetry Review, New Republic, New Yorker, New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Manhattan Review, Massachusetts Review, and Partisan Review. Poetry editor for the New Republic, 2001—.


Glyn Maxwell is a British-born poet who was educated at Oxford and at Boston University, where he studied poetry with Derek Walcott and George Starbuck. According to critic Andy Brumer in the New York Times Book Review, Maxwell "distinguishes himself with a host of dexterous and nimbly honed lines and images." The poet has also been praised for his invigorating verse that sweeps into itself observations both universal and contemplative. In the New Republic, Adam Kirsch credited Maxwell with "a dexterity, a daring, and a wit that are very rare in poetry today," adding: "Maxwell writes original verse, and in reading him we get the sense of a distinct sensibility."

Kirsch found a great deal to praise in Maxwell's first collection by an American publisher, The Breakage. The reviewer wrote: "The Breakage is a very successful book, and a worthy advance on Maxwell's earlier work. Fine details can be found in just about every poem." Kirsch went on to write in the same review: "It is all the more exciting because Maxwell's particular talents—formal, comic, and lyrical—are perhaps the rarest in today's poetry, and so reading him seems to reestablish the link between ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ poetry that too often seems severed. He proves what every good poet proves, that there is no historical time or social condition in which genuine poetry cannot be written." Kirsch also noted: "Beautiful and moving and authentic poetry can be written today; and we know this not least because Glyn Maxwell is writing it."

Maxwell is also author of the novel Blue Burneau. The story revolves around bodyguard Maris "Blue" Burneau, who fails to stop the assassination of the viceroy he is in charge of protecting during a visit to the fictional island of Badeo. Burneau ends up being the prime suspect in the assassination and goes on the run, only to find himself in the rebel headquarters, where he is expected to provide prophetic utterances after conditioning by the rebels. "It's a surrealistic enterprise, often hilariously funny in the way of Gogol," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor.

In his 1995 collection of poetry, Rest for the Wicked, the author includes several songs from verse plays that the author wrote. "The poems … consider the inner and outer lives of boys and men, exploring love, aging, politics, sex, and war, among other subjects," noted David Lloyd in World Literature Today. "Maxwell's work as an actor and playwright serves him well, for his verse presents a distinctive voice that proceeds with great energy."

Maxwell collaborated with Simon Armitage to write Moon Country: Further Reports from Iceland, which relates the two poets' visit to Iceland. Noting that previous British writers, such as William Morris and W.H. Auden, had traveled to Iceland with a vision of the country as a sort of unpolluted Utopia, New Statesman contributor Boyd Tonkin observed: "Auden and [Louis] MacNeice, in 1936, filtered Europe's brewing storm through the japes and frolics of their Letters from Iceland. Now, in a shameless sequel—a parody of a parody, almost—the young Middle-English poets Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell have sent back ‘further reports from Iceland.’"

Published in 2000, The Boys at Twilight: Poems, 1990-1995, contains selections from three previous volumes of poetry by Maxwell. "Maxwell's well-made poems reveal a stunning dexterity with the use of imagery and rhyme," wrote Frank Allen in the Library Journal. Allen went on to note that the author's "brilliant use of language and delightful, rapid-[f]ire embellishments of the ordinary are ample cause for celebration." The wide range of poems vary from the mindless ramblings of three friends throughout the day as they seek a new chocolate egg product to the lack of content in political discourse. "Maxwell has an ear for empty statements, syntactic stumbles and conversational filler, the expressive contentlessness of so much that we say," wrote Langdon Hammer in the New York Times Book Review. "Even when there are missing pieces or semantic gaps, however, Maxwell's poems plunge on, with the implication that life is like that—a little out of control, a little out of reach."

Also published in 2000, Time's Fool: A Tale in Verse tells the story of Edmund Lea, a lonely man seeking some means of escape from his isolation. In the tale, the seventeen-year-old Edmund is a passenger on a train he is unable to get off of except for once a year, to spend Christmas Eve in his old hometown, where people think he has gone off of his own accord. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted: "Apart from its Wagnerian netherworld, Time's Fool also bears a considerable Dantean influence: Edmund's journey counts among its ingredients an instructive guide …; a lady love …; an old classmate; fellow travelers in the form of two long-suffering orphans, Pele and Wasgood; [and] terror in the form of threatened eternal damnation and ferocious weather." Stephen Whited wrote in Book that the author "engagingly blends informal street talk, dream sequence and love."

The Nerve is a collection of poems in which the author "probes ‘the nerve’ underlying this middleclass predict- ability," wrote Library Journal contributor Daniel L. Guillory. In the process, the author examines American culture, such as football and country fairs, as well as women who fall in love with death row inmates and a child-sex sting. The author also presents short lyrical poems that ponder nature and the author's surroundings, and longer poems that recall deceased friends. "Maxwell is an intelligent and sensitive writer, and The Nerve is one of the most enjoyable books of this year," wrote David Orr in his 2002 article in the New York Times Book Review. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "readers who seek variety in formal choices will be pleased … by Maxwell's well-managed pentameters."

The author provides another book-length verse in The Sugar Mile. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Christian Wiman noted that the poem "tells a story that moves between two countries and two wars, employs a complicated narrative structure and involves a cast of a dozen or so people." The story begins in a New York bar just three days before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. There a poet meets a survivor of a terrible bombing episode in London during World War II. Joseph Stone recounts his survival of the horrible event and the tragic memories that he still carries with him. In telling Stone's story, the author is commenting on the lives of survivors following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. "The narrative flows with forceful, almost cinematic quality," noted Ilya Kaminsky in the Library Journal. Jane Satterfield, writing in the Antioch Review, commented: "Inasmuch as Maxwell's documentary impulse commemorates lost lives, The Sugar Mile looks toward the future: to the restorative powers of poetry as a shared experience—one of essential witness and redemption."



Contemporary Poets, 6th edition, St. James (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Antioch Review, winter, 2006, Jane Satterfield, review 2of The Sugar Mile, p. 192.

Book, May, 2001, Stephen Whited, review of Time's Fool: A Tale in Verse, p. 78.

Booklist, March 1, 1999, Ray Olson, review of The Breakage, p. 1145.

Boston, October, 2002, Rachel DeWoskin, review of The Nerve, p. 202.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February, 1993, B. Galvin, review of Out of the Rain, p. 962.

Critical Survey, May, 1996, Angela Topping, review of Rest for the Wicked, p. 222.

Library Journal, November 15, 2000, Frank Allen, review of The Boys at Twilight: Poems, 1990-1995, p. 73; November 15, 2000, Frank Allen, review of Time's Fool, p. 73; August, 2002, Daniel L. Guillory, review of The Nerve, p. 101; April 15, 2005, Ilya Kaminsky, review of The Sugar Mile, p. 93.

New Republic, June 14, 1999, Adam Kirsch, "A Formal Feeling," p. 41.

New Statesman, November 15, 1996, Boyd Tonkin, review of Moon Country: Further Reports from Iceland, p. 45; December 1, 2003, review of The Nerve, p. 45.

New Yorker, March 25, 1996, review of Rest for the Wicked, p. 91.

New York Review of Books, November 6, 1997, Helen Hennessey Vendler, review of Rest for the Wicked, p. 58.

New York Times Book Review, July 18, 1999, Andy Brumer, "Shards of Light," p. 9; November 5, 2000, Langdon Hammer, "Living the Missing Life: For This Poet, the Absent Experience Is a Social Condition, a Blankness for Everyone," p. 26; December 3, 2000, reviews of Time's Fool, p. 74, and The Boys at Twilight, p. 67; September 22, 2002, Scott Veale, review of Time's Fool, p. 28; November 17, 2002, David Orr, "So Long at the Fair: In His Poems, Glyn Maxwell Is Concerned with Aspects of Childhood and the Crossing of Borders," review of The Nerve, p. 7; November 24, 2002, review of The Nerve, p. 34; December 8, 2002, review of The Nerve, p. 63; September 4, 2005, Christian Wiman, "Poet at the Bar," review of The Sugar Mile, p. 25.

Poetry, July, 2001, Sandra M. Gilbert, review of The Boys at Twilight, p. 216.

Publishers Weekly, December 19, 1994, review of Blue Burneau, p. 50; September 18, 2000, review of The Boys at Twilight, p. 106; September 18, 2000, review of Time's Fool, p. 106; July 22, 2002, review of The Nerve, p. 170; March 7, 2005, review of The Sugar Mile, p. 65.

School Librarian, August, 1995, review of Rest for the Wicked, p. 115.

Spectator, November 21, 1992, review of Out of the Rain, p. 42; November 20, 1993, review of Gnyssthe Magnificent: Three Verse Plays, p. 39; November 20, 1993, review of Out of the Rain, p. 42.

Times Literary Supplement, July 24, 1992, Robert Potts, review of Out of the Rain, p. 23; September 3, 1993, Lawrence Norfolk, review of Gnyss the Magnificent, p. 12; December 3, 1993, review of Out of the Rain, p. 12; June 10, 1994, Phil Baker, review of Blue Burneau, p. 24; June 9, 1995, Nicholas Jenkins, review of Rest for the Wicked, p. 30; July 25, 1997, Andrew Wawn, review of Moon Country, p. 11; October 24, 2003, Andrew McNeillie, "Suddenly Very Far from Home," review of The Nerve, p. 33; June 3, 2005, Roger Caldwell, "Never the Same Thing Twice," review of The Sugar Mile, p. 9; January 12, 2007, John Stokes, "Suburban Strugglers," reviews of Plays One and Plays Two, p. 17.

World Literature Today, fall, 1996, David Lloyd, review of Rest for the Wicked.

ONLINE, (December 15, 2007), Jules Smith, profile of author.

Glyn Maxwell Home Page, (December 15, 2007)., (December 15, 2007), "Glyn Maxwell," profile of author.


Jane Hirshfield and Glyn Maxwell Reading Their Poems in the Mumford Room, Library of Congress, Feb. 20, 2003 (analog sound recording), Library of Congress, 2003.

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Maxwell, Glyn 1962-

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