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

A Wide and Wingless Path Mark Ford

F.T. Prince's first collection, austerely entitled Poems, was published by Faber and Faber in 1938. Its editor was of course T.S. Eliot, who over the previous thirteen years had established Faber as the market leader in modern poetry. The 26-year old Prince was joining a stable that included the likes of Ezra Pound, W.H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender and Marianne Moore. Until the Eliot archives finally open at some unforeseeable date in the future, we won't know exactly what appealed to the Pope of Russell Square about this diverse, dense often bewildering volume, whose contents include a sinuously complex dramatic monologue by Edmund Burke, an elaborate mock seventeenth- century epistle to a supposed patron, a Stevensian address to the Muse of America, a five part recreation of the reign of the Zulu king Chaka, and a number of beautiful - but at times almost unfathomable - shorter lyrics.

One can guess, however, at the reasons behind Prince's decision to call the collection simply Poems. Its various styles seem to have developed in total isolation from each other, and to pull in completely different directions: it establishes no unifying set of concerns, and no readily identifiable poetic persona. Each poem appears wholly self-contained, as if answerable only to itself. In this Prince's debut might be seen as the polar opposite of another volume edited and published by Eliot eight years earlier, and also called Poems: in his first Faber collection Auden appears determined almost to abolish the ...


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