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Blackfell’s Scarlatti

August Kleinzahler: Basil Bunting

21 January 1999
The Poet as Spy: The Life and Wild Times of Basil​ Bunting 
by Keith Alldritt.
Aurum, 221 pp., £19.95, October 1998, 1 85410 477 2
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... In 1964 BasilBunting began writing his long poem Briggflatts on the train from Wylam to Newcastle, where he was in charge of the financial page of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. In June that year Bunting had written to a friend: ‘Nothing about myself. I feel I have been dead for ten years now, and my ghost doesn’t walk. Dante has nothing to tell me about Hell that I don’t know for myself ...

Slough

Eley Williams

16 August 2017
... I don’t know which pronunciation either but will trust an advert that chooses semicolons over em dashes, little BasilBunting beards in favour of shattered thistledown’s propellers. Language as capillary action rising through a sugar cube, growing heavy, placed on the tongue – this is easier to explain in pidgin ...

Diary

Stephen Spender: Towards a Kind of Neo-Paganism

21 April 1983
... farmhouse. The house was full of poets, for the purpose of the weekend was to judge Sotheby’s International Poetry Competition held in support of the Arvon Foundation, and we were the judges: BasilBunting, Gwendoline Brooks, Adrian Mitchell, George Barker and myself. I feel vaguely paranoid about any poets but those of my own generation (all dead except for Empson and myself) and was delighted ...

In the Châtelet

Jeremy Harding

20 April 1995
François Villon: Complete Poems 
edited by Barbara Sargent-Bauer.
Toronto, 346 pp., £42, January 1995, 0 8020 2946 9
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Basil BuntingComplete Poems 
edited by Richard Caddel.
Oxford, 226 pp., £10.99, September 1994, 0 19 282282 9
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... decide – and Paris, where his fall from grace began. To strand him at a junction, singing gallows songs, is not quite right. Detained in Paris in the early Twenties for assaulting a police officer, BasilBunting found himself ‘in the room where Villon had awaited examination five hundred years earlier’. Peter Makin, in Bunting: The Shaping of His Verse (1992), retells this story from Bunting’s ...

Imagine Tintin

Michael Hofmann: Basil Bunting

9 January 2014
A Strong Song Tows Us: The Life of Basil​ Bunting 
by Richard Burton.
Infinite Ideas, 618 pp., £30, September 2013, 978 1 908984 18 0
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... Holmes’s Shelley: The Pursuit all those years ago); for a rare, artful blending of long and short, one can’t do better than Rimbaud and Hölderlin; and for the latter, Hamsun, Yeats, Shaw – and Bunting. Incidentally, or maybe not, Bunting also shows beautifully on film and still photographs, from the waggingly imperialled steely young man (‘one of Ezra’s more savage disciples’, Yeats called ...

Unaccountables

Donald Davie

7 March 1985
The Letters of Hugh MacDiarmid 
edited by Alan Bold.
Hamish Hamilton, 910 pp., £20, August 1984, 0 241 11220 6
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Between Moon and Moon: Selected Letters of Robert Graves 1946-1972 
edited by Paul O’Prey.
Hutchinson, 323 pp., £14.95, November 1984, 9780091557508
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... poetry, something of which the energies are not yet spent, three names are commonly brought up to show that the modernist impetus survived in the generation after Pound: David Jones, Anglo-Welshman; BasilBunting, Northumbrian Englishman; and Hugh MacDiarmid, Lowland Scot. The claim for Jones seems the weakest: it is advanced by Jones’s admirers, not by the poet himself, who took no interest in the ...

This Condensery

August Kleinzahler: In Praise of Lorine Niedecker

5 June 2003
Collected Works 
by Lorine Niedecker, edited by Jenny Penberthy.
California, 471 pp., £29.95, May 2002, 0 520 22433 7
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Collected Studies in the Use of English 
by Kenneth Cox.
Agenda, 270 pp., £12, September 2001, 9780902400696
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New Goose 
by Lorine Niedecker, edited by Jenny Penberthy.
Listening Chamber, 98 pp., $10, January 2002, 0 9639321 6 0
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... two years later she was back living with her parents. The Objectivist issue of Poetry of February 1931 had among its contributors Zukofsky, Carl Rakosi (another Wisconsiner), Charles Reznikoff, BasilBunting, John Wheelwright, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert McAlmon, George Oppen, William Carlos Williams and Whittaker Chambers, a friend of Zukofsky’s from Columbia who, among other things, later ...

Going Electric

Patrick McGuinness: J.H. Prynne

7 September 2000
Poems 
by J.H. Prynne.
Bloodaxe/Folio/Fremantle Arts Centre, 440 pp., £25, March 2000, 1 85224 491 7
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Pearls that Were 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 28 pp., £4, March 1999, 1 900968 95 9
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Triodes 
by J.H. Prynne.
Barque, 42 pp., £4, December 1999, 9781903488010
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Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 
edited by Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain.
Wesleyan, 280 pp., $45, March 1999, 0 8195 2241 4
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... and describes the development of an experimental literary culture to sustain it – particularly in the 1970s and 1980s (a period Robert Sheppard has called the ‘utopia of dissent’), when BasilBunting was president of the Poetry Society and Eric Mottram was editing Poetry Review. Certain key figures emerge as influences or promoters, but the tradition ... is long, dissenting and largely ...
9 July 1992
Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... once his Scottish neighbour in Hull. He ignores the pair (both provincials, of course) whom Kenner singled out as the most honourable exceptions: Charles Tomlinson, who applauded William Soutar, and BasilBunting, who befriended MacDiarmid. Yet Tomlinson and Bunting are the true mavericks, as Kenner recognised. They are mavericks because, while acknowledging class-based and region-based resentment, in ...

Pound & Co.

August Kleinzahler: Davenport and Kenner

26 September 2019
Questioning Minds: Vols I-II: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner 
edited by Edward Burns.
Counterpoint, 1817 pp., $95, October 2018, 978 1 61902 181 5
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... credit scheme, and the other cranky detours that blight the Cantos, all mixed in with the gems that make the poem a sprawling, messy marvel. I was already in touch with Davenport when I visited BasilBunting at his house near Newcastle in 1978. Bunting knew Kenner and admired his writings on poetry: he was one of only two critics Bunting thought any use, the other being Kenneth Cox. Bunting ...

Toss the monkey wrench

August Kleinzahler: Lee Harwood’s risky poems

19 May 2005
Collected Poems 
by Lee Harwood.
Shearsman, 522 pp., £17.95, May 2004, 9780907562405
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... by a 26-year-old physician-poet from what was then Rhodesia called Stuart Montgomery, the author of a remarkable long poem entitled Circe, adapted loosely from the Odyssey and clearly influenced by BasilBunting. If Fulcrum had achieved nothing else, the publication of Bunting’s long poem Briggflatts in 1966 and his Collected Poems in 1968 would have secured its importance. But the Bunting books ...

Plumping

J.I.M. Stewart

19 March 1981
Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 246 pp., £8.95, March 1981, 0 19 502767 1
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... Lawrence judges it to intensify the innate philistinism of mankind in general. So what follows hard upon the end of hostilities is ‘the British Literary Diaspora’. Norman Douglas is in Capri and BasilBunting in Tenerife and Julian Bell at Wuhan University! Mr Fussell, who has a fondness for what may be termed enumerative criticism, produces a long list of such displacements. And all through the ...

A Form of Words

Paul Batchelor

18 April 2019
...           ‘… what I would say to inner-city blacks is:                hip-hop is the problem, not the solution …’          ‘… I saw your TLS piece on BasilBunting and I have to say:                fourteen isn’t twelve …’          ‘… of course the thing you mustn’t say is:                Islam is truly ...

All There Needs to Be Said

August Kleinzahler: Louis Zukofsky

22 May 2008
The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky 
by Mark Scroggins.
Shoemaker and Hoard, 555 pp., $30, December 2007, 978 1 59376 158 5
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... shapes appear concomitants of word combinations’ – and later disowned by Zukofsky, who regretted the business for the rest of his life. One of the poets included in the Poetry gathering, BasilBunting, a lifelong friend and admirer of Zukofsky who never considered himself an Objectivist or had any interest in the other Objectivists, was so exercised by the theoretical nonsense of his friend’s ...

Enlarging Insularity

Patrick McGuinness: Donald Davie

20 January 2000
With the Grain: Essays on Thomas Hardy and Modern British Poetry 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 346 pp., £14.95, October 1998, 1 85754 394 7
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... Davie had taken up a professorship at Stanford. With the Grain reprints the Hardy book in its entirety, along with a number of essays, directly or obliquely related, spanning almost forty years: on BasilBunting, Charles Tomlinson, Ted Hughes, Robert Graves, Hugh MacDiarmid, J.M. Synge, David Jones, George Steiner, Geoffrey Hill, Elizabeth Daryush and the fraternity of poets anthologised by Andrew ...

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