The White Stones

J H Prynne (Author) Peter Gizzi (Introduction by)


J. H. Prynne is Britain's leading late-modernist poet. His work, as it has emerged since the 1960s, when he was close to Charles Olson and Edward Dorn, is marked by a remarkable combination of lyricism and abstraction, at once austere and playful. The White Stones is a book that is central to Prynne's career and poetics, and it constitutes an ideal introduction to the achievement and vision of a legendary but in America still little-known contemporary master.

Product Details

New York Review of Books
Publish Date
April 19, 2016
4.5 X 0.3 X 7.4 inches | 0.2 pounds

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About the Author

J. H. Prynne was born in Kent in 1936 and studied at Cambridge University; he worked there as a teacher and scholar in the Department of English and is currently a life fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Sussex, and a Visiting Professor at Sun Yat-Sen University, People's Republic of China. He has published forty-one collections of poems during the period 1968-2015, all now reprinted in the third enlarged edition of his Poems (Bloodaxe Books, Hexham, 2015).

This volume, The White Stones, was composed in the earlier 1960s, at the same time as working with students in the study of English and European poetry of various classical traditions, and also assimilating the force of the New American Poetry of that period. A good reading knowledge of French and German and Italian kept open a complex historical perspective, and an extremely partial understanding of Chinese demonstrated the influence of Ezra Pound in a new cross-light.

Since these early times there have also been extended commentary-essays, on the Han Chinese lyric, on a painting by Willem de Kooning, on literary/linguistic topics, and three extended commentary-monographs: on a Shakespeare sonnet, on a poem by Wordsworth and another by George Herbert, on Wallace Stevens, and on a scroll-painting by the Chinese landscape painter Shen Zhou (1425-1509). The author has traveled quite widely, in the U.S.A. and further afield; his poems have been translated into French, German, Italian, Norwegian and Chinese, and a brief selection is being prepared in Mexican Spanish; there have also been a number of musical settings and workings. His collected prose writings (2 vols) are currently in preparation. Some website material is available, including a full online bibliography and various talks and lectures.

Peter Gizzi is the author of several poetry collections, including Threshold Songs, The Outernationale, and most recently, In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987-2011. His honors include the Lavan Younger Poet Award from the Academy of American Poets, and artist grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Howard Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has served as the poetry editor for The Nation and as founding editor of o-ble¯k: a journal of language arts. In 2011 and again in 2015-16 he was the Judith E. Wilson Visiting Fellow in Poetry at Cambridge University. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


"[Prynne's poetry] can induce the same combinations of fear and wonder once associated with the sublime...It is undeniable that his poetry offers both pleasures and challenges of an unusually complex kind: and it is for precisely this reason that many people will testify, without hyperbole or sentimentality, that his poetry has changed their lives."--Robert Potts, The Guardian

"Prynne's work is challenging, yes, but also funny...politically incisive, erotic, and philosophical. It puts into play the most diverse range of discourses imaginable and doesn't make it easy for the reader to decide how or even with what attitude to respond...Prynne's work reminds us that poetry, besides offering a variety of sensorial and emotional pleasures, can be something with which to think."--Forrest Gander, Chicago Review