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This review is taken from PN Review 230, Volume 42 Number 6, July - August 2016.

Cover of The White Stones
Ian BrintonCome Into The Open

J. H. Prynne,
The White Stones

New York Review Books, 2016
In Volume 12 of Grosseteste Review, published in 1979, Nigel Wheale began his substantial study of Prynne’s The White Stones by quoting from The Philosophy of Money by Georg Simmel. Referring to the use of metal coins as a method of exchange Simmel asserts that the lives of many people ‘are absorbed by such evaluating, weighing, calculating and reducing of qualitative values to quantitative ones’. The appropriateness of this reference relates not only to Prynne’s own ‘A Note on Metal’ (1968) but also to the hand-written inclusion of a Simmel quotation to the twenty-six lettered copies of Aristeas which Andrew Crozier’s Ferry Press had published in that year. Wheale also referred to the visual presentation of the poems highlighting that those in the first half of the book, a series of poems rather than a collection, are frequently indented at the left hand margin giving the appearance of dressed stone quoins at the angle of a building of some pretension, ‘as of a temple or bank, Barclays or Jerusalem’.

This new edition of The White Stones contains not only the poems from the Grosseteste first edition of 1969 but also the short prose piece ‘A Note on Metal’, which had first appeared in Series 2 of The English Intelligencer, and the privately-printed Day Light Songs (1968). Peter Gizzi, editor of this welcome new edition of one of the landmark publications from the end of the 1960s, suggests that there is a metamorphic language at play in these poems and that naming is the prerogative for knowing since ...

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