While largely unknown in the United States, J. H. Prynne has garnered a devoted following in his native England. His poetry was first published in the 1960’s, but it was not until the publication of his first collected edition Poems in 1982 that he started to gain notoriety. This edition of Poems contains eighteen separate volumes of Prynne’s poetry as well as a number of uncollected poems. A poet in the modernist tradition, he has been compared to Ezra Pound, Charles Olson, Frank O’Hara, and Paul Celan. Always searching for new ways to express himself lyrically, Prynne has experimented to the point where easy comprehension of his poems is impossible. The casual reader will get lost in his vast poetic labyrinth. To fully enter Prynne’s world, a reader must bring imagination and persistence.
Since 1962, he has taught at Cambridge University and been closely aligned with a group of Cambridge poets. Prynne has shunned—for the most part—mainstream publishers. His avant-garde volumes have come out in small runs as chapbooks or small press editions. Over the years, Prynne has touched on various topics, including radical politics, scientific knowledge, and personal growth. His poems have been called “severe” and “austere delights.” He speaks of the many sides of love in his 1994 collection Her Weasels Wild Returning. As a poet, Prynne is nothing less than a “visionary.”
Poems is to be savored by all serious readers of contemporary poetry who are up to the challenge of Prynne’s dense lyrical voice.