Refreshing Culture.

The Poems of Basil Bunting

Bunting, Basil. The Poems of Basil Bunting. Ed. Don Share. London: Faber & Faber, 2016.

Despite periodic attempts to spread the word among the uninitiated, the English poet Basil Bunting (1900-1985) remains far less well-known than he deserves. This outstanding and illuminatingly-annotated edition, edited by the poet Don Share, seeks to rectify this scandalous state of affairs. For it is a scandal: Bunting, sometimes dismissed as an eccentric Northumbrian disciple of Ezra Pound, is to my mind one of most distinctive and effortlessly memorable of twentieth-century English poets. The more one reads him, the more he dazzles. Skeptical? Read “At Briggflatts Meetinghouse” aloud:

At Briggflatts Meetinghouse

Boasts time mocks cumber Rome. Wren

set up his own monument.

Others watch fells dwindle, think

the sun’s fires sink.

Stones indeed sift to sand, oak

blends with saints’ bones.

Yet for a little longer here

stone and oak shelter

silence while we ask nothing

but silence. Look how clouds dance

under the wind’s wing, and leaves

delight in transience.

Better yet, listen to Bunting himself reading the poem on the University of Pennsylvania’s indispensable PennSound website:

Bunting once ruefully described himself as a “[m]inor poet, not conspicuously dishonest.” I take no position regarding his moral integrity. However, it seems ever clearer to me that this self-mocking capsule “autobiography” severely understates the author’s immense poetic achievement.