Basil Bunting

Scope and Content

Consists of letters and proofs relating to the published poetry works of Basil Bunting.

Administrative / Biographical History

Basil Bunting 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'. Born in Northumberland in 1900, 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 that his genius was finally recognised. He died in 1985.

Complete Poems (2000) was reissued by Bloodaxe for Bunting's centenary and includes his original Collected Poems alongside the posthumous Uncollected Poems. It also contains a new introduction by Richard Caddel. A companion double-cassette recording of his own reading of his poems, Briggflatts & Other Poems, was also published by Bloodaxe at the same time.

A new Bloodaxe edition of Briggflatts (June 2009) includes a CD with an audio recording Bunting made of Briggflatts in 1967 and a DVD of Peter Bell’s 1982 film portrait of Bunting. As well as his own notes to the poem, the book includes his seminal essay on sound and meaning in poetry, ‘The Poet’s Point of View’ (1966).

Related Material

BXB/2/7/3, BXB/2/7/25 and BXB/2/7/133

Other archival material for Basil Bunting is held at Durham University Library, Special Collections and Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne