Basil Bunting on Poetry
"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
A close poetic ally of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky, the British poet Basil Bunting is best known for his use of specific musical form in poetry. Several of his works, including his long poem Briggflatts, are in the form of the sonata. Although his language is plain, unvarnished English, his influences and models extend to Classical, Persian, and Japanese verse.
Basil Bunting on Poetry collects two series of lectures that Bunting delivered in 1968 and 1974. Tracing the development of an English poetry governed by families of stress-groups from Beowulf down to Wyatt, Wordsworth, Whitman, Pound, and Zukofsky, the lectures focus on writing and hearing poetry rather than on literary-historical concerns. Throughout, editor Peter Makin expands upon and annotates the lectures with additional comments drawn from Bunting's writings.
About the Author
Peter Makin is a professor in the Department of English at Kansai University in Osaka, Japan.
Makin has edited these lectures conservatively and sensitively: the speaking voice, with all its asides and modest caveats, has not been excised. With publications as useful and thorough as this, Bunting may yet secure his deserved place on the teaching syllabus of twentieth-century British poetry.
There are many interesting essays here, and all conspire to make one of the most sustained poetic arguments for poetry as a form of music than any I know... Professor Makin and Johns Hopkins have done a valued service in bringing Bunting's readable and provocative prose writings to print.
Carefully and unpedantically edited with scrupulous notes... The book is a fine tribute to Bunting in his centenary year.
These lectures are an engagingly individual and wonderfully readable course of commentaries on the major figures and topics of English poetry. Bunting is at once intensely specialized in matters of poetic craft and delightfully free of specialist jargon and coterie interests. His sensibility is wonderfully accessible to general readers, providing at once the clarity of a seasoned practitioner and a real talent for controversial and provocative opinions.
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