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This article is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

Squink: Reading J.H. Prynne Peter McCarey
I first noticed J.H. Prynne in an Observer review of his Poems (1982) and of Edwin Morgan's Poems of Thirty Years (also 1982). The reviewer was much more impressed by Prynne, and one key change caught me as so strange that I wanted to know where it came from:

        To return, this is an
        intimately physical place,
        picked out of the air like forbidden fruit. So much air and so close I
can feel the lunar caustic I once used in
a lab note-book headed 'analysis'. Now
it's Laforgue again, the evening a deep city
of velvet and the Parisian nitrates washed off
into the gutters with the storm water...

I bought the book, relocated the phrase, but apart from 'The Kirghiz Disasters' and the first line from the poem on Paul Celan - 'Fire and honey oozes from cracks in the earth' - and the last lines of 'Glove Timing' ('...If you still want to come / in like that, take off your word for shoes') didn't retain much. And yet I bought the Bloodaxe collection in 1999 and went through it again. Which means it's been on a back burner for thirty years, and I still don't know what to make of it.

What follows is a reading in three parts. The first approach is through recent critics of Prynne's work; the second is a secular, subjective and perhaps naive recollection of one particular ...


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