A spirited homage to the departed literary greats—set in an entrancing English village—this novel tells the tale of a profound autumn term with Poe, Yeats, Whitman, Dickinson, and the Brontës.
“I am walking along a country lane with no earthly idea why . . .”
Poet Glyn Maxwell wakes up in a mysterious village one autumn day. He has no idea how he got there—is he dead? In a coma? Dreaming?—but he has a strange feeling there’s a class to teach. And isn’t that the poet Keats wandering down the lane? Why not ask him to give a reading, do a Q and A, hit the pub with the students afterwards?
Soon the whole of the autumn term stretches ahead, with Byron, Yeats and Emily Dickinson, the Brontës, the Brownings, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Wilfred Owen, and many more all on their way to give readings in the humble village hall.
And everything these famed personalities say—in class, on stage, at the Cross Keys pub—comes verbatim from these poets’ diaries, essays, or letters. A dreamy novel of a profound autumn term with Poe, Yeats, Whitman, Dickinson, and the Brontës.
Glyn Maxwell is one of Britain's major poets. His plays include The Lifeblood, After Troy, and The Only Girl in the World. His novel Blue Burneau was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Prize. His opera libretti include The Lion's Face, The Firework Maker's Daughter, Seven Angels, and Nothing. He has taught at Princeton, Columbia, and New York University, and he reviews poetry for the New York Times. He is the author of One Thousand Nights and Counting: Selected Poems, as well as the recently published On Poetry, which considers the art form through the eyes of four imaginary students. Their journeys continue in Drinks With Dead Poets.
"This novel packs so much truth and so many conspicuously educational moments—along with character studies of 12 major nineteenth-century poets and writers—that it defies classification. An intoxicating blend of fiction, memoir, and literary criticism."
– Booklist (starred)
"Part dream-memoir, part picaresque novel, and part defense of the poetic art form, the book is a wholly brilliant and often comical evocation of a mysterious university campus, its students and visiting lecturers, and the altogether precarious status of poetry within contemporary academia. Brilliant."
– Harvard Review
"Maxwell blurs the lines between prose and poetry and between fiction and reality as he takes readers on a surreal journey full of literary criticism and metrical analyses, all guided by the visiting poets who speak entirely in quotes from their real-life journals and letters. The surreal quality of the writing is offset by Maxwell’s wonderfully dry sense of humor. Readers of metafiction will enjoy this rabbit hole of luminary poets."
– Publishers Weekly
"If 19th-century poetry is a gap in your education, Maxwell’s charming and learned novel will fill it more than you could hope. It joins his marvelous nonfiction text, On Poetry; reading both is not required, but you’ll want to."
– Library Journal
"Defiantly and exhilaratingly poetic. I like the urgency and stringency of Maxwell’s advice, and it should be useful to students coming to a poem. Arguing with this book is part of the joy of it: it’s provocative and opinionated and personal and urgent; by turns good-humored and intemperate; and full of earned advice on the writing and reading of poems."
– Nick Laird, The New York Review of Books [praise for Glyn Maxwell’s 'On Poetry']
"Part comic novel, part confession, part literary critique, Maxwell's book is both creative and self-indulgent, packed with quotations, musings, and dissections of rhyme schemes."