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This article is taken from PN Review 147, Volume 29 Number 1, September - October 2002.

F.T. Prince John Ashbery

That a great poet could write and publish three collections of poetry over a period of twenty-five years and still remain undiscovered is an idea we find hard to accept today when we imagine ourselves to have reached the level of maximum receptiveness, when poetry has finally 'caught on' after all these centuries and when even poètes maudits have a hard time remaining so for very long. And yet it can happen. In our country one of our finest poets, Robert Fitzgerald, remains unknown or at least unread, which is almost the same thing. In England, where at the moment 'the languid strings do scarcely move,' F.T. Prince suffers the even worse fate of being somewhat known and a little read, if only so that he may be all the more quickly dismissed without the slightest twinge of conscience. The fault of both poets is that they cannot be attached to any group; therefore, their excellence confuses people. Fitzgerald's voice is lost in America where the loyalty-oath mentality has infiltrated even poetry, where you cannot see the poet for the disciples. And Prince is simply alone in England.

Although he has occasionally contributed to Poetry, Prince's only book published in the U.S. as of 1983 (except for a scholarly work on Milton's Italian influences distributed by Oxford) was for a long time a pamphlet published in 1941 in New Directions' Poet of the Month series. With one exception, a beautiful early poem called 'The Babiaantje', these poems ...


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