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This review is taken from PN Review 31, Volume 9 Number 5, May - June 1983.

PRYNNE COLLECTED J. H. Prynne, Poems (Agneau 2. Distributor: DS [The Book Shop], 11 Lambs Conduit Passage, London WC1R 4RH) £12.00, £7.50-pb

This volume collects the contents of twelve books by J. H. Prynne, from Kitchen Poems (1968) to Down where changed (1979), as well as some previously uncollected poems and sequences from the same period. It is thus a 'collected poems', although not complete in that it omits those poems published prior to Kitchen Poems, including the collection Force of Circumstance (Routledge, 1962). There are, perhaps, grounds for regretting the omission, for although those early poems will not bear serious comparison with the later work they do show a point of departure: we see the author as a distinctively English poet working within a recognizably English lyric tradition. The transition to the dense discourse of Kitchen Poems is not without interest. There is much that the new work rejects as it moves toward a wider-ranging poetic and away from a field which many contemporaries still remorselessly work over; there is also retention of a refined lyric element which is prominent in The White Stones (1969) and which might still be traced in more recent work. However, the omission of the early poems does underline the remarkable coherence of Prynne's work in the period covered, and the constancy of his concerns: questions, broadly, of knowledge and value, subjected to increasingly stringent restraints of language. Restraints too, we feel, of time, sensing the passage of recent history in the movement from 'the whole order set in this, the/proper guise, of a song ,. ./. . . It may all flow again if ...


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