My copy of Basil Bunting’s Collected Poems found its way into my attention span recently. I have the Moyer Bell edition, © 1985. I presume later editions have been released.
Bunting represents one more hole in my reading—or more accurately, my grasp—to go along with the likes of John Wieners, Joanne Kyger, and more. I mean that I have given these writers a bum shift, insofar as I came to them late and/or read them poorly. It happens, whether I lacked access to their work or simply lacked receptivity. I mean, I have tried to ease the error of my ways. One can only read so much.
With Bunting, Pound’s august authority put him on the map for me. I mean august seriously, at least within the range of Pound’s poetic antenna. For all his disagreeable parts, he did know, and support, poetry.
So I knew Bunting as a poet to reckon with. I found, however, that I stumbled on his locution. His English, from those islands over there, comports strangely to this child of normal television. He drops verbs and shifts word order some. He alludes thickly. These fail as excuses, I only effort to make clear the pebbles I tripped on.
On the plus side, he plays a sternly joyful music. He can make a better case that April’s the cruelest month than Eliot. This aspect of nature poet resounds with him, in a way that I would liken to John Clare. Both carry a down to earth sense and sensitivity to nature. They strip the metaphors away and look directly. Thoreau, when he’s journaling, does the same thing. It is a temperate sort of honesty, one willing to hold back the gush. I’m sure Bunting was a frolicsome weirdo, but he kept his measure, never strayed from the beat.
This video of him reading carries the oracular thunder of Pound himself, and the look in Bunting’s eye can only be called bardic. I feel very open to this writing now.