World Enough Poems

Maureen N. McLane

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

144 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

In World Enough, Maureen N. McLane maps a universe of feeling and thought via skyscapes, city strolls, lunar vistas, and passages through environments given and built. These poems explore how we come to know ourselves—sensually, intellectually, politically, biologically, historically, and anthropologically. Moving from the most delicate address to the broadest salutation, World Enough takes us from New England to New York to France to the moon. McLane fuses song and critique, giving us poetry as "musical thought," in Carlyle's phrase. Shuttling between idyll and disaster, between old forms and open experiments, these are restless, probing, exacting poems that aim to take the measure of—and to give a measure for—where we are. McLane moves through many forms and creates her own, invoking the French Revolution alongside convolutions of the heart and revolutions of the moon. Shifting effortlessly between the species and the self, between the sentient surround and the peculiar pulse within, World Enough attests to experience both singular and shared: "not that I was alive / but that we were."


Praise for World Enough

"One of my favorite reviewer's tricks is to assemble a sort of authorial lineage for the poet under consideration. Charles Wright, for instance, has always seemed to me the descendent of both Gerard Manley Hopkins and Woody Allen. It's a useful way of conveying the old 'if you like X, you'll love Y.' And it's failed me entirely in reading World Enough, Maureen N. McLane's beautiful second book. I had been ready to compare her pared-down, fragmentary couplets to Robert Creeley or even Sappho. Her urbane attentiveness, to Frank O'Hara. And her acuity with frequent, cunning rhymes, to Kay Ryan. But McLane withstands any such comparisons—in fact defies them—because her own uncompromising voice cuts so keenly, no matter what form she has chosen for a given poem. That voice abides with an almost fatalistic wryness that I cannot resist comparing to Philip Larkin her 'Song of a Season II' . . . McLane's first book, though accomplished, sometimes felt like an attempt to weld together two or more styles and a universe of influences. In World Enough, the structure is complete and the seams invisible . . . Contemporary poetry is too often a poetry of fragments, content to lie in shards. In World Enough, McLane demonstrates the poet Derek Walcott's belief that "the love that reassembles the fragments [of a broken vase] is stronger than the love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole. World Enough takes nothing for granted; its fragments both strive and sing." —David Lucas, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"With a title evoking Marvell, McLane's second collection adheres to his dictum that 'though we cannot make our sun/ Stand still, yet we will make him run,' even as her poems drift and spill down these pages like rain. Often employing syllabic minimums (especially in the longer poems), McLane uses simple diction that butts up against the philosophical and profound. Generic words like 'cloud(s)/ rain/ wind/ sun' are reiterated to form a shifting web that explores the 'weathers' and the 'whethers'; beginning in a locus, the poems gaze outward toward the whatevers of space-time, trying to split (sometimes violently) the poem-moments apart like atoms of experience. McLane, who's noted for her literary criticism and scholarship, also demonstrates an ease with Blakean lyric. With disarming playfulness, even whimsy, she interrogates what self is and what language means in a physically, spiritually, and materially 'stormbashed' world where 'Nothing/ in nature that is ours/ is ours' . . . Though playful, these poems are not for literary wimps. Occasionally, what begins so engagingly starts to feel like sound bite or the image-flash of commercial TV, something McLane herself seems aware of, but at their best these poems fuse musicality and wordplay into ingenious thought; highly recommended." —Library Journal

"McLane is a professor of English at NYU, a prolific book critic and specialist in British romanticism. Her academic proclivities are readily apparent in her second collection: 'what is called thinking/ is obsessing,' she writes, echoing and answering the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. This book has the overall feel of a poetic diary, with meditations on the changing seasons, travel, politics, love affairs, and the mind itself, as McLane (Same Life) ventures to understand, via various methods, what it means to live in a particular epoch: The question/ is the ratio of the palpable hurt/ to the general session/ of life in an era. There, and elsewhere, McLane crosses the streams of academic and accessibly passionate language, creating a kind of emotional, autobiographical criticism in hip free verse: 'rain rain and the trees/ engulfed I am tired/ of reading Russians their suffering/ souls their tribulations.' McLane, armed with a sharp wit, engages in an ambitious poetic project, as she confronts the very meaning of the shadowed hours of time past, present, and future." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Maureen N. McLane

  • Maureen N. McLane's essays have appeared in numerous publications. She is the author of Same Life and received the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. She teaches at New York University.

  • Maureen N. McLane Joanna Eldredge Morrissey