Basil Bunting

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Basil Cheesman Bunting (March 3, 1900April 17, 1985) was a British modernist poet.


I SUGGEST Advice to Young Poets[edit]

  • Compose aloud: poetry is a sound.
  • Never explain- your reader is as smart as you. Your reader is not just any reader, but is the rare one with ears in his head.
    • I SUGGEST Advice to Young Poets Basili Bunting Poetry Archive, Durham University Library 190

Basil Bunting on Poetry[edit]

  • All you can usually say about a poem or a picture is, 'Look at it, listen to it.' Whether you listen to a piece of music or a poem, or look at a picture or a jug or a piece of sculpture, what matters about it is not what it has in common with others of its kind, but what is singularly its own."
    • Basil Bunting on Poetry ed Peter Makin, The Johns Hopkins University Press; New edition (1 Oct 2003) ISBN 978-0801877506

Gin the Goodwife Stint, from Odes I:14 (1930)[edit]

  • Gin the goodwife stint
    and the bairns hunger
    the Duke can get his rent
    one year longer.
  • The Duke can get his rent
    and we can get our ticket
    twa pund emigrant
    on a C.P.R. packet.

from "Villon" (1930)[edit]

  • He whom we anatomized
    ‘whose words we gathered as pleasant flowers
    and thought on his wit and how neatly he described things’
    to us, hatching marrow,
    broody all night over the bones of a deadman.
  • Then he saw his ghosts glitter with golden hands,
    the Emperor sliding up and up from his tomb
    alongside Charles. These things are not obliterate.
    White gobs spitten for mockery;
    and I too shall have CY GIST, written over me.
  • Remember, imbeciles and wits,
    sots and ascetics, fair and foul,
    young girls with little tender tits,
    that DEATH is written over all.

    Worn hides that scarcely clothe the soul
    they are so rotten, old and thin,
    or firm and soft and warm and full—
    fellmonger Death gets every skin.
  • Mine was a threeplank bed whereon
    I lay and cursed the weary sun.
    They took away the prison clothes
    and on the frosty nights I froze.
    I had a Bible where I read
    that Jesus came to raise the dead—
    I kept myself from going mad
    by singing an old bawdy ballad
    and birds sang on my windowsill
    and tortured me till I was ill
  • The sea has no renewal, no forgetting,
    no variety of death,
    is silent with the silence of a single note.

What The Chairman Told Tom, from Odes II:6 (1965)[edit]

  • Poetry? It's a hobby.
    I run model trains.
    Mr Shaw there breeds pigeons.
    It's not work. You don't sweat.
    Nobody pays for it.
    You could advertise soap.
  • Who says it's poetry, anyhow?
    My ten year old
    can do it and rhyme.
    Mr Hines says so, and he's a schoolteacher,
    he ought to know.
    Go and find work

On the Flyleaf of Pounds Cantos, from Odes I:37 (1949)[edit]

There are the Alps. What is there to say about them?
They don't make sense. Fatal glaciers, crags cranks climb,
jumbled boulder and weed, pasture and boulder, scree,
et l'on entend, maybe, le refrain joyeux et leger.
Who knows what the ice will have scraped on the rock it is smoothing?

There they are, you will have to go a long way round
if you want to avoid them.
It takes some getting used to. There are the Alps,
fools! Sit down and wait for them to crumble!

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