Robert Potts writes:
‘It is the fate of some artists,’ John Ashbery once remarked, ‘and perhaps the best ones, to pass from unacceptability to acceptance without an intervening period of appreciation.’ For a long time – more than forty years in fact – there seemed no danger that this fate would befall J.H. Prynne: take him or leave him, it didn’t seem possible that he’d ever be acceptable. His name had become, as The Oxford Companion to 20th-Century Poetry put it in 1994, ‘synonymous with all that is most rebarbative in the work of the contemporary English avant-garde’. Considering his obscurity (limited edition pamphlets circulating among those in the know; no publicity, no interviews), it is remarkable how much fear and loathing the mere existence of his work once generated.