Briggflattsby Basil Bunting
Basil Bunting (1900-1985) was 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
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Basil Bunting (1900-1985) was 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’.
Bunting called Briggflatts his ‘autobiography’. It is a complex work, drawing on many elements of his life, experience and knowledge, and features the saint Cuthbert and the warrior king Eric Bloodaxe as two opposing aspects of the Northumbrian – and his – character. Its structural models include the sonata form (and Scarlatti’s music in particular) and the lattice-work of the Lindisfarne Gospels, while thematically it recalls Wordsworth’s Prelude.
Bunting wrote that ‘Poetry, like music, is to be heard.’ His own readings are essential listening for a full appreciation of his highly musical poetry. This enhanced ebook with audio and video includes Peter Bell’s 1982 film portrait of Bunting previously available only on the DVD accompanying the print edition along with two audio recordings of Bunting reading Briggflatts, the 1967 London recording from the CD accompanying the print edition, and the 1977 Carlisle recording previously released by Bloodaxe Books on an LP record in 1980 and featuring Domenico Scarlatti’s sonata in B minor, L.33.
As well as his posthumously published ‘Note on Briggflatts’, the book includes Bunting’s seminal essay on sound and meaning in poetry, ‘The Poet’s Point of View’, and other helpful background material. Bunting’s Complete Poems is also available from Bloodaxe in both print and enhanced ebook formats, the latter with 50 audio files embedded with the texts, including all his major works (Briggflatts, Villon, The Spoils and Chomei at Toyama), along with many shorter poems.
‘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
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