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

Terms of Engagement in F.T. Prince John Hall

I am going to try to itemise some features of F.T. Prince's work which continue to give me such pleasure. This has proved less easy than I expected: it is one thing to itemise them; it is quite another to extricate them from each other in the work of so careful a poet.

This is how I spoke them to myself when I still thought it would be easy: that he loves the particularity of sentences, where emotional and intellectual drive plays itself off against grammar; that he loves prosodic games that derive patterns of phonic repetition and variation from past writing, and that he loves in particular the way these games have to negotiate with the first game, of grammar and its obligations to sense; that he loves rhetoric, by which I mean the speaking or writing that is entirely appropriate to its context (a rhetoric expects to make a direct call on grammar; what he re-invokes is a call that it can make on poetics too); and finally - and I am not sure that he 'loves' this one so much as knows he is caught by it - he holds to a poem as a discursive instrument, each one a quite specific form of knowing.

I shall struggle with what it is that a poem needs to 'know'; as a first stab let me just say that it needs to know the limits as well as the delirium of love and/or power ...


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