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date: 28 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay considers the importance of the outsider in contemporary poetry, focusing on the ways F. T. Prince and Stevie Smith’s work has influenced subsequent generations and been appropriated by them. In 1967, F. T. Prince refused to write a blurb for Lee Harwood’s poetry on the grounds that his ‘obscure and doubtful’ reputation would do little to promote it; the same year saw Stevie Smith declaring she read nobody’s poetry but her own. This insistence on their own marginality finds its way into poetic tributes by Brian Patten, Patricia Beer, and Lee Harwood. Both poets suffered the vicissitudes of post-war publishing, their uneven reception drawing admirers as unlikely as Tom Raworth and Andrew Motion. Yet the singularity of their work raises difficult questions about influence and inheritance, and both Sylvia Plath’s use of Smith and Geoffrey Hill’s use of Prince suggest the problems of accommodating the poetic outsider.

Keywords: poetry, influence, legacy, F. T. Prince, Stevie Smith, outsider, marginal

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