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 and Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, Wilfred Owen and many more all on their way to give readings in the humble village hall.
And everything they say – in class, on stage, at the Cross Keys pub – comes verbatim from their diaries, essays, or letters.
Drinks With Dead Poets is a homage to the departed, a tale of the lives and loves of students, a critical guide to great English poetry, the dream of a heavenly autumn. Nothing like it has ever been written.
‘Poetry is a pitiless mistress… This paradox of irritation and compulsion hovers behind Glyn Maxwell’s brilliantly unclassifiable new book… Professor Maxwell arrives on a mysterious campus in a dream-state, having no clue where he is or what he is supposed to be doing. This tallies exactly with the experience of arriving at a new university, whether as staff or student… In this dream world, only Thursdays exist and all the visiting poets are dead ones. Not quite getting the hang of it at first, the narrator wonders who the “frock-coated emo” is, hanging around outside, talking about bonnets. It’s only little Johnny Keats! Despite a stellar term’s line-up, including Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson and WB Yeats, the elusive students are hard to impress… A prefatory note explains that although the poets’ utterances come verbatim from their writings, these biographical sketches, “like the village and the students and their mystified professor, are works of make-believe”… [a] wholly brilliant evocation of a mysterious university campus, its students and visiting lecturers’
– The Guardian