The Puzzling Poetic Praxis of J.H. Prynne - Part II
“The need to lend a voice to suffering is a condition of all truth.”
- Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialects.
As befits a poet in the modernist tradition of T.S. Eliot whose approach has always been to eschew the personal, Jeremy
Halward Prynne's biographical details are limited, sparse, and hard to come by. He was born on June 24, 1936. After an
education in the English primary and secondary system, followed by a period of two-year National Service in the army, he
enrolled as an undergraduate at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he studied English Literature from 1957 to 1960. He
graduated with a first in the second part of the English Tripos and was appointed a Frank Knox Fellow at Harvard during
the academic year 1960-1961. He returned to England as a research student at Cambridge and in 1962 was appointed to a
Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, where he became Director of English Studies and Librarian. He was married in
1969, has two children, and is now retired.
The Poetry Foundation has summarized Prynne’s writing as “the most audacious of postwar English poetry. In vindicating
the tradition from which it emerges, his writing erases that tradition. The attempt to present poetry as what
exemplifies a universal and aesthetic mode of cognition, as a direct glimpse of the truth, subverts itself, allowing
itself to be read in the terms of a specific practice of writing. By taking language to the limits set by its own
assumptions of the poetic, Prynne’s work effects the recognition of those assumptions for what they are:
misrecognitions, ideologies. By opening onto an elsewhere, an excess, a beyond, Prynne’s work, in spite of itself, has
explored the conditions for the language that speaks always too early, or too late.”
Prynne shares this contradictory quality of belated prescience with his close personal friend, the American poet Ed
Dorn, who studied under Charles Olson at the liberal arts Black Mountain College in the 1950s, when it was a cauldron of avant-garde literary, musical, and artistic experimentation. Walter Gropius, Franz Kline, Josef and Anni Albers, Robert Motherwell,
Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Buckminster Fuller, William and Elaine de Kooning, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage all
taught or studied there. Dorn went on to write the seminal American poem Gunslinger (recently republished in a fiftieth anniversary edition, with a Foreword by Marjorie Perloff, by Duke University
Press). His later output consisted largely of hilariously cantankerous aphorisms that are the polar opposite of Prynne's
more academic approach. In a 2016 Paris Review interview, Prynne admitted “making many travels together [and] spending a good deal of time amusing each other by
wickedness and absurdity and all sorts of other fantastical adventures.” Their correspondence ran to “nearly fifty
binders of paper” until Dorn died in 1999, after which Prynne dedicated his own collected Poems to Dorn's “luminous shade.” In 2002, Prynne was appointed Visiting Scholar at Perth's Edith Cowan University in Western
Australia, where he delivered a seminar on epic poetry cycles in general, and Gunslinger in particular.
Given the historical and socio-cultural context from which Prynne's poetry emerged, a panoptical perspective on what his
poems might be trying to say is indispensable to its comprehension. With some sequences this can be an exceptionally
demanding challenge, requiring a great deal of perseverance, concentration, and endurance. Sadly, and somewhat
inevitably, when trying to explain the 'meaning' of Prynne's poetry, the dead hand of theory is too often invoked in an
effort to wrest some sort of definitive exegesis from his recalcitrant 'texts.' All the usual suspects - from Paul de
Mann, through Jean Baudrillard, to Frederic Jameson - are routinely wheeled out to erect a critical scaffolding which
more often than not induces a state of soporific boredom. Ferdinand de Saussure, Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, and
Maurice Merleau-Ponty have all been invoked in recent book-length appraisals. N.H. Reeve and Richard Kerridge, in an
otherwise admirable study, resort to M.M. Bakhtin's concepts of 'heteroglossia' and the 'carnivalesque,' as well as the
writing of Jean-Francois Leotard, Jurgen Habermas, and Julia Kristeva. Wit Pietrzak takes forty pages of dense
theoretical argument before tackling Prynne's poetry directly. Mathew Hall's penetrating close textual analysis is
burdened with references to Alain Badiou and Jacques Derrida, lifting concepts such as 'suture,' 'subjectivity,' and
'rupture' from the kind of post-semiotic film criticism pioneered in Screen magazine by Stephen Heath and Colin MacCabe (both English professors at Cambridge, contemporary with Prynne). Anthony
Mellors is more perceptive than he imagines when he mentions that “in Prynne's poetry, obscurity is combined with
excess: there is always more language, more reference, more signification in an expenditure which may or may not be
concerned to recuperate some core of meaning from its riot of utterances.” Such approaches often end up becoming even
more convoluted than the poems themselves, a feat of critical obfuscation that takes some dedication to achieve.
Maybe because they benefitted from Prynne's personal supervision while studying at Cambridge, two of his earliest
advocates have provided the most perspicacious and profitable commentaries on the best approach to appreciating his
poetry. The prolific novelist and biographer Peter Ackroyd and the brilliant poet Veronica Forrest-Thomson (whose career
was cut tragically short by an accidental overdose of prescription drugs and alcohol) demonstrate great acuity in their
analyses of the aesthetic beauty inherent in Prynne's syncretic articulation of “poetic thought.” Ackroyd wrote, “his is
the first poetry to exercise the full potential of the written language. … [It] excises completely the role of the
poetic 'voice,' whether as a personal or as a synthetic medium of expression, and so it moves beyond the range of purely
aesthetic effects. His poetic form offers a writing that calls into question our conventional response to what we think
of as 'poetic' and what we think of as 'non-poetic'.” Forrest-Thomson offered a similarly salient explication in terms
of “the minute attention to technical detail which, together with tendentious thematic obscurity, gives the poet a way
of recapturing the levels of Artifice, of restoring language to its primary beauty as a craft by refusing to allow its
I have found the most productive approach to Prynne's poetry is simply to keep a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary
nearby and to pay close attention to each word as it is laid out on the page, especially the calculated deployment of
italics, indentations, line breaks, and punctuation. There are frequently multiple ways of decoding the same words, so
the dedicated reader needs to develop a high tolerance for polysemic puns and ambiguity. In the remarkably austere
sequence entitled Streak~~~Willing~~~Entourage/’Artesian’ (2009), there are at least eight different definitions for the word 'pitch,' all of which seem potentially relevant.
Prynne's especially enjoys employing such apparently simple words as 'still,' 'twist,' 'like,' and 'again' to maximum
semantic effect, depending on their context. The word 'wound,' used ambiguously to function as both noun and verb, pops
up repeatedly in his verses. So does 'tilt,' as in these lines from John in the Blooded Phoenix (1969) -
The axis of landform runs
through each muted interchange. The
tilt is a plausible deflexion of energy / now
we are not at the side of anything.
Forty years later, from Blue Slides at Rest (2009) -
Face rental flap in foreign tongues, her no one
no nation tilt prospecting so far a loan perplex
did you, fill or kill, tongue and groove.
And from The Ideal Star-Fighter (1971), which depicts a fearful and anxiety-ridden world -
Now a slight meniscus floats on the moral
pigment of these times, producing
displacement of the body image, the politic
… The meniscus tilts the
water table, the stable end-product is dark
motion, glints of terror the final inert
Derived from the Greek word mēniskos (crescent), a diminutive of mēnē (moon), 'meniscus' has at least three operative meanings here: in physics, it refers to the curved upper surface of a
liquid in a tube; in optics, it is a lens that is convex on one side and concave on the other; while anatomically, it is
a thin fibrous cartilage between the surfaces of some joints, such as the knee. All involve bending away from something,
or a 'deflexion of energy.' But this is more than metaphor - the material elements are not merely figurative and neither
discourse is simply the tenor of the other. The abruptness and frequency of the shifts between them prevents any ranking
of cause and effect to establish itself, as their dialogic relationship deconstructs any pre-existing assumption about
hierarchies. The cumulative effect of such parataxis, in which the figurative refuses to be purely metaphorical, is that
whatever linguistic hierarchy seems to have been previously established is instantly undermined.
Similarly, the image of a crystal comprising a myriad of elements is itself a High Modernist trope, frequently employed
by William Carlos Williams, among many others. Prynne uses it in conjunction with the word 'tilt' to invoke a number of
possible connotations in The Oval Window (1983) -
In darkness by day we must press on,
giddy at the tilt of a negative crystal.
Not only are crystals in the 'oval window' of the inner ear necessary for preserving spatial balance and equilibrium,
but whenever they tilt they reveal other hidden facets, previously invisible or overlooked. Crystals are formed by
immense geological pressure over vast periods of time that allow them to refract and transmit light. As Reeve and
Kerridge have pointed out, “many of Prynne's poems are crystalline and multi-faceted in this sense. Since there is no
single vantage-point to which the whole of the object is open, the highlighting of an aspect depends on the obscuring of
others; and the least shift of phrase or word or tone is likely to dislodge and replace whatever feature had apparently
Crystals also possess qualities of immense electro-magnetic potential and it is no coincidence that the transmission of
what his early mentor Donald Davie termed “articulate energy” is an ongoing preoccupation in Prynne's poetry. His short
essay on Resistance and Difficulty is a compact and densely worded argument that underlines how every subject exhibits various levels of resistance to
being understood and how we experience difficulty when we encounter such resistance. Prynne insists that the task of the
imagination is to gain access to “the resistance beyond our several difficulties” and concludes with a quote from Rilke
about the quest for a fusion of resistance and difficulty which offers some justification for the level of complexity
encountered in reading his own work. Prynne delights in 'difficult' ways of speaking about a complicated world where the
deep, underlying, and determining forces are often masked and highly resistant to any easy comprehension, be they
geological, scientific, or economic.
News of Warring Clans (1977), a complex meditation on economic coercion and colonialism, contains the following lines -
The rest is allegory linking reserve error,
we make a roux to thicken up the money supply
and merely imitate attention. You stamp about
looking for more cheap cuts and square deals.
Reeve and Kerridge have indicated how the 'trivial' discourse of entertainment is intercut with the 'serious' discourse
of current affairs - “TV cookery mixes with economic punditry, giving the latter a disturbing connection with
materiality, and revealing both as monologic discourses of instruction which expect no interruption from the audience
(here probably a TV audience: the effect is like rapid channel-hopping), which is then told what it will do in
contemptuously short catch phrases.” The most economic dialogic form of all is the pun, especially one which occurs at
the interface between two discourses and can belong to either - “whose two senses do not fall into any stable
hierarchical relationship.” Prynne is always looking for words and phrases that can be utilised to express the whole
economy in which these 'goods' are resourced, produced, and consumed.
Prynne's 1987 collection Bands Around the Throat investigates systems of financial coercion and economic control in general, with specific reference to how the South
African system of apartheid and the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown were mediated by contemporary news outlets. It contains
the poem In the Pink, the opening stanzas of which provide yet another instance of the word 'tilt,' here employed in the sense of medieval
jousting tournaments -
The fixed charge is now set up
in delay at unused incident
by a factor of two, at each
unfolded part-time request.
What is the purport then, tilting
steadily again, away to provide
mint tokens for our moment here
in spite of the clearest call
From screen to outlook?
The caustic title of the poem itself plays upon a valuation of flesh and blood. It refers not only to a perfect state of
physical well-being, but also being in material debt, underscoring an intrinsic interplay between health and wealth that
is echoed throughout the other poems in the collection, which contain references to such diverse sources as the Revesby Mummers Play, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, The Book of Psalms, Shakespeare, and children's verse. Fresh Running Water parodies a UNICEF campaign and Lend a Hand mockingly comments on well-intentioned efforts by developed nations to assuage their post-colonial guilt. Both poems
use superficially 'innocent' snatches of nursery rhymes to castigate the moral imperative of those whose want to
ameliorate the situation, without acknowledging the broader global capitalist system that enforces differences in life
expectancy and unequal access to natural resources.
As Prynne's oeuvre has developed and matured, it has become increasingly obdurate, composed in a language that resolutely excludes any
phrasing that retains the kind of balance and tension we would normally expect. Rod Mengham suggests that “the language
is more bizarre than ever, but it is also more heavily synthesised, more systematically correlated, simply more
commensurable.” This excess of signification stems from an over-abundance of lexical and discursive elements that imbue
the poems with a feeling for language under immense pressure. Nonetheless, it is still possible to discern some of
Prynne's continuing preoccupations. Ever since Aristeas, in Seven Years (1969), the ways in which warfare, the media, political events, tribal life spent on the margins of society, and the
corporeal body are all interrelated has become a closely woven thematic thread throughout his work. In A Quick Riposte to Handke's Dictum about War and Language (2000), he wrote - “Warfare between nations is most often waged across language-frontiers, as a fiercely linguistic
event, even if often for reasons not fully conscious or not admitted into full public view; but the mounting up of a war
programme, in advance of the hostilities and to justify their methods, is a concatenation of intensely linguistic
processes, in which the whole identity and propensity of individual language-histories are worked into the deepest
complicity.” As early as Wound Response (1974), however, the premise of being assaulted provides the motive for attack, this linguistic reversal played out as
a form of pre-emptive 'retaliatory strikes' against an invasive enemy.
In its punning title, Refuse Collection (2004) similarly focuses on the violent atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib as they were presented for public
consumption. It is written in a style that mimics news reports which sought both to disseminate and control the flow of
information about the torture and abuse that took place. It couches the invasion of Iraq in the dialogue of military
commands and the words of soldiers themselves, employing direct quotes, idiomatic media slang, army jargon, and the
language of economic speculation to express private sentiments in the broadest public terms, and relentlessly refusing
any escape from culpability -
Pre-set threat assessment at deferred
base precision, risk profile vamps up by alert to
stockade fire lines …
we watch the target this time ah yes right we
are the target let's go faster now and self-abhor,
get there first. Civil defence, rights issue give
before robbed in-store.
The overarching effect is to insist not only that those involved can neither deny nor excuse their guilt, but that
Western nations bear a collective responsibility for electing governments that supported the US-lead invasion. Another
aspect of Prynne's poetic that has became increasingly concentrated in the decades since Brass is the way he uses the emphatic language of commands in close proximity to alliterative and onomatopoeic word clusters.
Such ambiguous phrases as “insert tool this way up” and “Go on, do it, we'll photograph everything” enact the idea of
force behind the command structure in which aggression and domination is masked as free choice. The function of commands
in Refuse Collection matches the degree of force it generated in both Her Weasels Wild Returning (1994) and Acrylic Tips (2002), where ideas of territorial and colonial acquisition, technology, nomadicism, and exile are linked together with
social ritual and song.
Matthew Hall has persuasively argued that Acrylic Tips concerns the eradication of indigenous traditions from Australian history. It displays a brilliant array of discourses
delineated across the transmigratory space of the poem, extending to an ethnographic exploration of aboriginal
song-lines as mythic creation narratives patterned onto the landscape. The colonial process of appropriating and
renaming land through technological 'progress' and industrial sheep farming demonstrates a lineage of hierarchical power
structures deeply embedded in the culture of contemporary Australia. Hall suggests that the “narrative of the poem deals
with loss; aspects associated with traditional, European, elegiac conventions. The inclusion of ethnographic details sch
as scarification rituals and references to travel on Indigenous song lines as a form of consolation add a level of
ambiguity to the poem and the complex human process of mourning. Traditionally pastoral elegies contain not only
evocations of the natural world as a source of unification and continuance, but also involve questioning the role of
initiation, vocation and inheritance. Acrylic Tips enacts and embodies this elegiac strategy, but does so in manner which extends across cultural divides.” The poem
certainly contains many of the conventions of pastoral elegy, including the experience of loss, outbursts of anger and
criticism, appeals, offerings of tribute, and the deployment of imagery that evokes the natural world not only as a site
of exploitation, but also of latent regeneration. The highly oblique angle it assumes, however, forces us to pay primary
attention to the musical quality of the poem's intricate patterns of assonance and consonance, before arriving at any
firm conclusion regarding its possible semantic ramifications.
There can be no doubt that Prynne takes poetry very seriously indeed. In another obscure essay, entitled No Universal Plan for a Good Life and published in Kathmandu of all places, he wrote, ”Throughout all my poetic work, in writing and reading and staying
open to the world of historical presence, the dialectical purpose has enhanced the fire of latent ethical seriousness,
and at the same time has tested this seriousness against the disorder of unpurposed material reality and the
contradictions of human will.” He demands that his readers “become responsible for what knowledge they will value and
what path of action they will chose.” This is a testament, in perhaps the plainest prose he has ever written, of
Prynne's intention to write poetry in which the reader must face up to the ethical challenge of understanding the
representation and operation of power and violence and to make an ethical judgement. Understanding how oppression works
in the world, with all its inherent contradictions and obvious inequities, involves cultivating a rigorous sense of
moral, intellectual, and imaginative passion. “There are only two things in the universe which are simple,” Prynne wrote
in his 1969 review of Olson's Maximus Poems, “one of them is the universe taken as a whole; and the other is its language, because its language is its capacity for
Like the poet and critic William Empson, Prynne is intensely concerned not only with how words sound phonetically, but
also with the connotations they evoke etymologically - their philological echoes, literary reverberations, and
historical repercussions. Zhi-min has observed that “to Prynne, a word … conjures up a train of historical events or
contexts that have been deployed … [he] often puts some fresh flavour into a word, enhancing it or simply altering it
altogether in his poetry.” As a result, the incendiary repertoire of rhetorical effects that Prynne employs seem to
burst off the page. The tantalizing and sometimes alarming juxtapositions and mergers of different sorts of linguistic
discourse, all the colloquialisms, arcana, literary and scientific allusions, specialized language, blunt aggression,
and sardonic withdrawal, constantly shift and turn like crystals, refracting any easy access to intelligibility with an
exasperating beauty. One configuration briefly flares up among the swirl of possible pathways, while another moment of
direct insistence suddenly illuminates passages that had previously seemed unfocused and blurry. Amongst all this
brilliant obfuscation, Prynne runs the constant risk that many readers will find his poetry too cerebral and simply give
up because it does not initially seem to make any kind of recognisable sense.
Nonetheless, if we are prepared to invest sufficient time and work, his poetry becomes increasingly engaging precisely
because the search for its slippery 'sense' leads us to think in entirely fresh and different ways about how words are
related to objects and concepts, how meaning emerges from otherwise recondite and abstruse procedures, and ultimately
how both the world and language work. In a Buddhistic manner, Mengham advises the reader of Prynne's poems to abandon
any effort to control or shape the reading process and to live instead in the moment of its occurrence, in a kind of
continuous recomposition of the self with no blocks to the flow. A “lifelong transfusion” is how Prynne himself put it
in The Oval Window. Reading his poetry in this manner, would then take place in a space somewhere separate, where the conscious mind as
constituted by our personal history and social identity - that part of ourselves which constantly observes, comments on,
and analyses our experience - is prohibited from trespassing. Thus it would be entirely possible to disagree with
Prynne's politics (he describes himself as “a peculiar and extraneous Marxist”), yet still appreciate his immensely
important contribution to our understanding not only of modern poetic praxis, but also of the larger world in all its
Force of Circumstance and Other Poems (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962).
Kitchen Poems (London: Cape Goliard, 1968; New York: Grossman, 1968).
Day Light Songs (Pampisford, Cambridgeshire: R. Books, 1968).
Aristeas (London: Ferry Press, 1968).
The White Stones (Lincoln: Grosseteste Press, 1969).
Fire Lizard (Barnet, Hertfordshire: Blacksuede Boot Press, 1970).
Brass (London: Ferry Press, 1971).
Into the Day (Cambridge: Privately printed, 1972).
A Night Square (London: Albion Village Press, 1973).
Wound Response (Cambridge: Street Editions, 1974).
Chansons à la Journée-Lumière. French translation of Day Light Songs, by B. Dubourg. (Damazan, Lot-et-Garonne: privately printed, 1975).
Lézard de Feu. French translation of Fire Lizard, by B. Dubourg (Damazan, Lot-et-Garonne: privately printed, 1975).
Poèmes de Cuisine. French translation of Kitchen Poems, by B. Dubourg and J.H. Prynne. (Damazan, Lot-et-Garonne: privately printed, 1975).
High Pink on Chrome (Cambridge: Privately printed, 1975).
News of Warring Clans (London: Trigram Press, 1977).
Down where changed (London: Ferry Press, 1979).
Poems (Edinburgh & London: Agneau 2, 1982; reprinted Newcastle-on-Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1999, 2005, 2015).
The Oval Window (Cambridge: privately printed, 1983).
Massepain. French translation of Marzipan, by B. Dubourg and J. H. Prynne (Cambridge: Poetical Histories, 2, printed and distributed by Peter Riley Books, 1986).
Word Order (Kenilworth, UK: Prest Roots, 1989).
Not-You (Cambridge: Equipage, 1993).
Stars, Tigers and the Shape of Words: The William Matthews Lectures 1992 Delivered at Birkbeck College, London (London:
Birkbeck College, 1993).
Her Weasels Wild Returning (Cambridge: Equipage, 1994).
For the Monogram (Cambridge: Equipage, 1997).
Red D Gypsum (Cambridge, MA: Barque Press, 1998).
Pearls That Were (Cambridge: Equipage, 1999).
Triodes (Cambridge: Barque Press, 1999).
Unanswering Rational Shore (Glasgow: Object Permanence, 2001).
Acrylic Tips (Cambridge: Barque Press, 2002).
Biting the Air (Cambridge: Equipage, 2003).
Furtherance. Unaltered reprint of Red D Gypsum; Pearls That Were; Triodes; Unanswering Rational Shore (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 2004).
To Pollen (London: Barque Press, 2006).
Poems | Gedichte. German translation (bilingual edition) of selected poems, by Ulf Stolterfoht and Hans Thill. (Heidelberg: Verlag das
101 Poems. Chinese translation (bilingual edition) of selected poems, by Li Zhimin (Guangzhou: English Poetry Studies Institute,
Streak~~~Willing~~~Entourage/’Artesian’ (London: Barque Press, 2009).
Pu Ling-en shi xuan: Han Ying dui zhao (Selected Poems by J.H. Prynne), ed. Ou Hong. Chinese translation (bilingual edition) by English Poetry Studies Institute, includes both poetry and
prose, as well as essays by Ou Hong, Cao Shanke, Zhimin Li, Chen Shangzhen, and a list of publications of J.H. Prynne
studies in China. (Guangzhou: Zhongshan da xue chu ban she, 2010).
Sub Songs (London: Barque Press, 2010).
Kazoo Dreamboats; or, On What There Is (Cambridge: Critical Documents, 2011).
erles qui furent. French translation of Pearls That Were, by Pierre Alferi. (Marseille: Éric Pesty Éditeur, 2013).
Al-Dente (Cambridge: Face Press, 2014, 2nd printing, 2015).
The White Stones. Unaltered reprint of the 1969 text, as well as unaltered reprints of Day Light Songs and ‘A Note on Metal’, with an introduction by Peter Gizzi (New York: New York Review of Books, 2016).
Each to Each (Cambridge: Equipage, 2017).
OF · THE · ABYSS (Cambridge: Materials, April 2017).
The Oval Window: A New Annotated Edition, eds. N.H. Reeve and Richard Kerridge. Unaltered reprint of the 1983 text, annotated by N.H. Reeve, with critical
essays by Reeve and Kerridge, and photographs and notes by the author. (Hexham, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, 2018).
Or Scissel. (Bristol: Shearsman Books, 2018).
For updates and complete bibliography, including recordings, uncollected poems, prose and letters, and critical
discussion, see http://prynnebibliography.org/ currently maintained and updated by Michael Tencer.
Donald Davie, Thomas Hardy and British Poetry (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), pp. 105, 113-116, 118-121, 128-129, 146, 178-180.
William Empson. Seven Types of Ambiguity (first published in 1930, revised editions Chatto & Windus, 1947 and 1953) and The Structure of Complex Words (first published in 1951, revised edition Chatto & Windus, 1977).
Donald Davie. Articulate Energy, An Inquiry into the Syntax of English Poetry (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1955).
Peter Ackroyd. Notes for a New Culture: An Essay on Modernism (Vision Press,1976).
Veronica Forrest-Thomson. Poetic Artifice, A theory of twentieth-century poetry (Manchester University Press, 1978), pp 47-51, 139-146.
Douglas Oliver, “J. H. Prynne’s ‘Of Movement Towards a Natural Place,’” Grosseteste Review, 12 (1979): 93-102.
Nigel Wheale, “Expense: J. H. Prynne’s The White Stones,” Grosseteste Review, 12 (1979): 103-118.
Elizabeth Cook, “Prynne’s Principia,” London Review of Books, 4 (16 September-6 October 1982).
Rod Mengham. 'A Lifelong Transfusion,' Grosseteste Review 15 (1983/4).
N.H. Reeve & Richard Kerridge. Nearly Too Much: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne. (Liverpool University Press, 1995).
Ben Watson. Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play (St. Martin's Press, 1995).
Rod Mengham. 'After Avant-gardism: Her Weasels Wild Returning,' Assembling Alternatives: Reading Postmodern Poetries Transnationally, ed. Roman Huk (Wesleyan University Press, 2003).
Robert Potts. 'Through the Oval Window,' The Guardian, April 10, 2004.
Anthony Mellors. Late Modernist Poetics: From Pound to Prynne (Manchester University Press, 2005).
David Caddy. 'Notes towards a Preliminary Reading of J.H. Prynne's Poems,' A Matter of Utterance: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne, ed. Ian Brinton (Bristol: Shearsman, 2009).
Keston Sutherland. 'XL Prynne,' A Matter of Utterance: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne, ed. Ian Brinton (Bristol: Shearsman, 2009).
Rod Mengham. 'A Free hand to Refuse Everything: Politics and Intricacy in the Work of J.H.Prynne,'A Matter of Utterance: The Poetry of J.H.Prynne. ed. Ian Brinton (Bristol: Shearsman, 2009).
Li Zhi-min. 'J.H. Prynne's Poetry and its Relation with Chinese Poetry,' A Matter of Utterance: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne, ed. Ian Brinton (Bristol: Shearsman, 2009).
Wit Pietrzak. Levity of Design: Man and Modernity in the Poetry of J.H. Prynne (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012).
Hix Eros, On the Late Poetry of J.H. Prynne, eds. Joe Luna and Jow Lindsay Walton (Hi Zero & Sad Press, 2014).
Matthew Hall. On Violence in the Work of J.H. Prynne (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015).
Jeff Dolven and Joshua Kotin. 'J.H. Prynne, The Art of Poetry, No 101,' The Paris Review, #218, 2016).