Glasgow Herald, 10/08/91 Harold Pinter. Collected Poems And Prose. Faber, 5.99 (pp 118)

Harold Pinter's new and enlarged edition of his Collected Poems And Prose adds nothing to his reputation as a writer. The importance of the book is that it shows the creative imagination of the mature artist emerging from the turmoil of adolescent aspiration.
Adult writers, embarrassed by what they come to see as the artlessness or naive ostentation of youth, often abandon or suppress their apprentice work. The earliest pieces in Pinter's collection are juvenilia written when he was in his late teens, and by preserving this work Pinter shows how a distinctive voice and coherent vision developed from his first inchoate attempts.

  "New Year In The Midlands' the opening poem in the collection, echoes the pub scene in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land but despite this obvious influence Pinter's poem is an inventive, highly intelligent piece of observation. And with hindsight it could be said that "New Year In The Midlands" shows the techniques of characterisation "The little black crab women". the woman "Who pouts the bristle of a sprouting fag" and "Freda the whimping glassy bawd" - that are developed in the plays of the 1950.
More typical or Pinter's early poetry and typical, even archetypal, of gifted adolescence - is "I shall tear off my Terrible Cap" written in 1951. The second line of the poem, "In a hostile pause in a no man's time", expresses the young man1s sense of conflict and his uncertainty about his identity. These are normal stages in the process of growing up but they are expressed with abnormal vividness in Pinter's poem.
Similarly, the paradox of "Only the deaf can hear and the blind understand / The miles I gabble" expresses the isolation and egotism of the developing self and is as much a statement of defiance as a plea for understanding. And the line, "All spirits shall haunt me and all devils drink me", is a piece of romantic posturing that invokes extremes of experience and at the same time professes mysterious power, the demonic possession of the wild artist.
Coherence is often a casualty in these early conflicts of emotion, intellect and language. There is no recognisable poetic voice since this requires a sense of one's own identity as a writer. Voice also requires a command of and a respect for language, but a feature of the early poems is their idiosyncratic and accidental diction. There is no clear vision or viewpoint since Pinter deals not with material reality but with a mental landscape which is still in the process of being formed.
What saves the early poems from incoherence is the sheer intensity of the underlying emotions - the aspiration of "I shall tear off my Terrible Cap". the loneliness of "A Glass At Midnight", the fused necromancy and sexuality of "Books Of Mirrors" - and the erratic but sure emergence of a powerful and original imagination.
It is understandable that the mature imagination should turn from poetry to plays. The early poems have a genuinely dramatic quality as well as the psychological melodrama of adolescence, and Pinter was a repertory actor until 1957, the year of The Birthday Party.
One effect of this change, or confirmation, of direction is to make some of the later poems seem like exercises. "A View Of The Party" for example. reads like a verse synopsis of the play: the poem is dated 1958 and includes a couplet that could serve as a stage direction: "They imposed upon the room / A -dislocation and gloom".
The exceptions are the love poems. "Daylight" is a fragment that combines tenderness and sensuality. "Always where you are" celebrates the unity of lovers through images of looking and touching; and two poems from 1975, "Paris" and "I know the place", have the lucidity of near perfect miniatures.
If we read the writer's life into his art, then the faltering love and somber eloquence of"'The Doing So," (1977) may be a comment on his first marriage, and the most powerful of the love poems. "Ghost" (1983), can be read as a vision of reconciliation with the ghost of his first wife, who died in 1982.
Like the poetry, the importance of the prose in this collection - especially the short fictions "The Black and White", "Tea Party", "The Coast" and "Lola" - lies less in what it achieves than in the extent to which it charts the emergence of a creative imagination. Collected Poems And Prose will be essential reading for the student of Pinter's work.

James Aitchison
Poems and Prose: 1949- 77 pub Eyre and Methuen Tribune 24 October 1980
Poems and Prose 1949-77 is an extended version of Harold Pinter's previous Poems, published in 197 1. His poetry is very much the work of the playwright, being concerned with visual effect and the relationship between personae. The main interest lies in the manner in which dramatic language has been used to poetic ends and some poems (such as The Second Visit) are akin in concept to the work of the great verse dramatists.
In the prose section there is the astonishing juvenile piece, Kullus - more a dramatic prose poem (and formerly published in earlier books as a poem) than a short story or essay. It alone would justify the book, which is more than a sideline from Pinter's stage/film writings.
Collected Poems and Prose pub Methuen Jewish Chronicle 6th June 1986

The husbanding of resources. and the canny reworking of his or her particular material may be a mark of the true artist. Certainly this volume gives evidence of concerns and obsessions being quarried deeper and from shifting angles and returned to again and again. In not much more than a hundred pages, ten prose pieces and thirty nine poems, Harold Pinter's genius for conveying the voice and essence of another person whether imaginary (The Coast) or real (the memorial piece for the actor-manager Anew McMaster) is well demonstrated. The poem Ghost is especially worthy of notice.


Collected Poems and Prose pub Faber and Faber Daily Telegraph 17th August 1991

Elizabeth Jennings's Poetry Guide

Fascinating because all this is the work of a master dramatist. The best prose feels as if it should be part of a play, but some short lyric poems. such as It is Here and Ghosts, have an almost Larkinesque sadness. The note of disturbance, however, is Pinter's alone.

Collected Poems and Prose pub Faber and Faber Robert Nye, The Times 05/09/91
Country folk in Wales have a good way of keeping up with their Joneses. To avoid confusion, and in the interests of distinction, they will refer to a man as though his trade or other distinguishing mark were part of his name. Thus: Jones the Milk, Jones the Boils, Jones the Death.
The decent democracy of this habit might make good criticism if applied to the 20th century literary scene. Don't we have a big family of Joneses, writers who are much of a muchness save for some predictable identifying preoccupation? And above that level, wouldn't there be mindfulness of a common humanity in looking coolly at those supposed to be giants and noting Lawrence the Sex, Dylan the Gab, Eliot the Church, Seamus the Famous? Somewhere along the line we'd come to Harold Pinter. His designation would be obvious. Harold the Menace.
Pinter must be sick of the word menace, but it is his own fault. From his first play, The Room, written in 1957, he has been manipulating language, people and objects in such a way that the suspense is perfect, a suspense of the unexplaining present tense. A Pinter play is made of events that seem to menace the characters, of characters who seem menaced by their environment, of menacing of the audience by the people on stage. Undeniably this is good theatre in that it compels and disturbs, drawing us in, refusing us exits in the shape of answers. Pinter at his best uses these melodramatic techniques with a saving grace of comedy.
The work put together in his Collected Poems and Prose offers few exceptions to these general observations. This book represents his own selection of his nondramatic writings. The earliest piece, Kullus, a prose sketch, mostly dialogue, about the relationship between a man of power and mystery called Kullus, his unnamed girlfriend, and an I-figure who draws baleful inspiration from their presence, was written when Pinter was 19. Kullus turns up also in The Examination (1955), by invitation, as it were, and perhaps it is not fanciful to detect a whiff of him even in later sketches. All this is quite pleasantly sinister. Pinter's verse, though, aspires to be something more.
The best of it can be found in "Message", a monologue beginning Jill. Fred phoned. He can1t make tonight. This is both clever and funny, with a fine ear for the way someone might really speak matched to close observation both of character and linguistic oddity. Go on the town, burn someone to death, / Find another tart, give her some hammer ... Lines like that suggest Pinter could have made a playwright's living in Jacobean times, when every memorable line had to be verse. Early and late, his other poems are mainly concerned with love and man/woman relationships. Their obsessions are honourable, and the reader is left with a feeling that Pinter knows what poetry is, even if he never writes poems.
Collected Poems AND PROSE by Harold Pinter Faber, 5 99
You might well expect Harold Pinter1s poetry to be both terse and quirky. And you would not be wrong: this selection, spanning 40 years shows a steady paring down. Words, lines, verses all become briefer as time passes.
The lush images and romantic word coinings of his 20 year-old self ("Muffling launts of deliverate ecstasy") come eventually to the cryptically titled Poem (1986) which runs in its entirety: "I saw Len Hutton in his prime/Another time/another time." Anyone who watches cricket today would know that it does not need to be one word longer.
I am not sure that Pinter is a natural poet. There is, as you might well expect. scarcely one printed here which is without some good lines but there are few that are wholly satisfying. Daylight (1956), which begins: "I have thrown a handful of petals on your breasts.' Scarred by this daylight you lie petalstruck", perhaps, comes closest.
The prose in this collection falls into two parts. There are what might be described as sketches, perhaps try-outs for Pinter dialogue, the first being almost a playlet written when he was 19. Some are wildly impressionistic, others gentle and exact.
The single page, written in 1975, describing a walk along a promenade with an old man is almost perfect: "But he had stopped talking. He was looking down at the sea, the sea he had known so well, the roar of our youth."
The rest is made up of memories: an evocation of the old actor-manager Anew MeMaster, who died in 1962 and with whom the young Pinter toured, and a memory of the old Somerset fast bowler Arthur Wellard still turning out to play club cricket at 72.
The collection, arranged chronologically, is offered without any explanation. A preface describing the circumstances of how these very various pieces came to be written would have been a pleasant addition. Perhaps when Mr Pinter adds to this collection in a few years time, he might think of including one.
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