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Highgreen Arts

Basil Bunting

Complete Poems
By Basil Bunting

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Complete Poems

Basil Bunting (1900-85) is one of the most important British poets of the 20th century. Acknowledged since the 1930s as a major figure in Modernist poetry, first by Pound and Zukofsky and later by younger writers, the Northumbrian master poet had to wait over 30 years before his genius was finally recognised in Britain - in 1966, with the publication of Briggflatts, which Cyril Connolly called 'the finest long poem to have been published in England since T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets'.

As well as Briggflatts, this new Complete Poems includes Bunting's other great Sonatas, most notably Villon (1925) and The Spoils (1951), along with his two books of Odes, his vividly realised 'Overdrafts' (as he called his free translations of Horace, Rudaki and others), and his brilliantly condensed Japanese adaptation, Chomei at Toyama (1932). Like the earlier Oxford edition, it presents in its entirety Bunting's own Collected Poems, with addition of the posthumous Uncollected Poems; but this centenary edition from Bloodaxe also has a new introduction by the late Richard Caddel.

Bunting wrote that 'Poetry, like music, is to be heard.' His own readings of his own work are essential listening for a full appreciation of his highly musical poetry. A new tape selection of readings by Bunting was released by Bloodaxe simultaneously with the reissue of his Complete Poems: see separate web catalogue page for this, which includes a comprehensive information about the recordings.

'Briggflatts is one of the few great poems of this century. It seems to me greater each time I read it' - Thom Gunn.

'His poems are the most important which have appeared in any form of the English language since T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land' - Hugh MacDiarmid.

Born in Northumberland in 1900, Basil Bunting lived in Paris in the 20s, where Ezra Pound rescued him from jail and fixed him up with a job on the Transatlantic Review. He later followed Pound to Italy - giving up his job to Hemingway - where Yeats knew him as 'one of Pound's more savage disciples'.

For the next 30 years he led a sometimes wild and always varied life - in Italy, England, Berlin, Tenerife, America and Persia - as a struggling, penniless writer, a music critic, sea captain, RAF officer, Times correspondent and Chief of Political Intelligence in Tehran. During these years he built up a reputation in America as the best English poet of his generation, at the same time as his poetry was neglected in Britain. In 1954 he returned to Northumberland, and worked for several years as a sub-editor on the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. It was not until the publication of Briggflatts in 1966 that his genius was finally recognised. He died in 1985.

Bloodaxe first published Bunting in 1980 when one of the earliest titles was an LP record of Bunting reading Briggflatts with the accompaniment of Scarlatti sonatas. That recording is no longer available, having been replaced by the CD and the same 1967 audio recording on the double-cassette with his readings of other work. During his last years, Bunting lived at Tarset in Northumberland, just down the valley from where Bloodaxe Books is now located. Bloodaxe is named after Eric Bloodaxe, the last king of independent Northumbria, who features in Briggflatts as Bunting's opposite persona to the Cuthbert side of his Northumbrian identity.

The following books are useful guides to Bunting's life and work: Keith Aldritt: The Poet as Spy: The Life and Wild Times of Basil Bunting (Aurum Press, 1999); Richard Caddel & Anthony Flowers: Basil Bunting: A Northern Life (Newcastle Libraries and Information Service / Basil Bunting Poetry Centre, 1997); Victoria Forde: The Poetry of Basil Bunting (Bloodaxe Books, 1991); Peter Makin: Bunting: The Shaping of his Verse (Clarendon Press, 1992); Peter Quartermain: Basil Bunting: Poet of the North (Basil Bunting Poetry Centre, 1990). Selections of Bunting's prose are available in Basil Bunting on Poetry, ed. Peter Makin (John Hopkins University Press, 2000).

Also available from Bloodaxe:

Basil Bunting: Briggflatts new edition with film on DVD and audio recording on CD

Basil Bunting: Basil Bunting reads 'Briggflatts' and other poems (two-hour double cassette

Victoria Forde: The Poetry of Basil Bunting

£9.95  Paperback 
1 85224 527 1.  248pp. 2000. 
Subjects:  AcademicModern ClassicModernist Poetry

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Other books by Basil Bunting:
Briggflatts (ebook)
Complete Poems (ebook)
Complete Poems (ebook)
Reads 'Briggflatts' and other poems