The Byelaws

Glyn Maxwell

Never have met me, know me well,

tell all the world there was little to tell,

say I was heavenly, say I was hell,

harry me over the blasted moors

         but come my way, go yours.
Never have touched me, take me apart,

trundle me through my town in a cart,

figure me out with the aid of a chart,

finally add to the feeble applause

         and come my way, go yours.
Never have read me, look at me now,

get why I’m doing it, don’t get how,

other way round, have a rest, have a row,

have skirmishes with me, have wars,

         O come my way, go yours.
Never have left me, never come back,

mourn me in miniskirts, date me in black,

undress as I dress, when I unpack pack

yet pause for eternity on all fours

          to come my way, go yours.
Never have met me, never do,

never be mine, never even be you,

approach from a point it’s impossible to

at a time you don’t have, and by these byelaws

          come my way, go yours.


The ByelawsPluto – the non-planet, the ex-planet – is the dominant celestial influence in Glyn Maxwell’s new collection: Pluto is a book about change, the before-and-after of love, the aftermath of loss: change of status and station, home and place, of tense and pronoun. It also marks a radical departure for one of our most celebrated English poets: his formidable skills as a rhetorician and dramatist are suddenly directed inwardly, to produce poems of brutal self-examination, raw elegy, and strange songs of the kind those bruising encounters often leave us singing to ourselves. In Pluto, Maxwell has set out something like a metaphysic of the affair; the result is a lean and concentrated poetry of great emotional power, and far and away Glyn Maxwell’s most directly personal work to date.


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