The experience of reading J.H. Prynne’s Al-Dente is utterly sui generis; from the baffling collision of particles which begins ‘Morning’ (‘To the or so then for all for on, both for / these an or then…’), to the syntactically opaque but emotionally transparent conclusion of ‘For Tom’ (‘Soon too for / gratify, brim over plainly moreover, inspect dear heart / passing swell, felt patched, fill to all loyal found.’).
For many readers, their first encounter with these poems was in Prynne’s latest revised Poems, ‘that yellow brick / Reassuringly thick’, in the words of a jingle I’m sure I heard on Heart FM, around the time that the previous edition of Poems was being promoted by Bloodaxe. Unfortunately, before I could ask the taxi-driver to turn up the radio – so I could check whether this was an authentic advert, or some strange private commission – he began discussing voluminously the time he’d had that Ed Dorn in the cab. “Wanted to go to Black Mountain but I told him I wouldn’t go over the river after midnight. Dropped him off at Embankment, said he’d get a nightbus the rest of the way. Lovely gent, very tall, but he hated dogs. I think Carcanet published his Collected in the end.”
Anyway, that got me thinking about Al-Dente. Why not return to it in the original pamphlet form, beautifully set and designed from Face Press – available instore for £6.50?