What fresh hell is this? Nick Hornby reviewing Glyn Maxwell's Rest for the Wicked (Bloodaxe pounds 6.95) in Poetry Review - all Lads together, eh! On this showing Hornby should present himself forthwith as poetry reviewer for Loaded magazine. "People like me," he gasps, "are now more likely to come home from our nearest branch of Waterstone's with a book of poems than we are to buy a first novel." All the same, it's rum stuff, this poetry business. Some of it is, well, really quite difficult. "I bought... Paul Muldoon's The Annals of Chile, and regret to say I didn't understand a line of it." And although Maxxers "writes about things that have cropped up a lot in my own work ... I find the patches of opacity and wilful obscurity particularly frustrating." He'll be complaining that the words don't reach the right-hand margin in a minute! The whine of self-deprecation grows deafening as he concludes: "I understood more than I thought I was going to."
All that wandering round Waterstone's studiously avoiding buying any first novels sounds exhausting, but soon Nicky will be able to browse at home. The next National Poetry Day (October 12) sees the launch of the Poetry Society's Poetry Map ("an interactive Information and Imagination Service") on the Internet. Baffled by Maxwell? Mystified by Muldoon? Get on line!
Poetry Review costs pounds 4.95 from good bookshops. For information on National Poetry Day, ring 0171 240 4810.