Basil Bunting Poetry Archive

Scope and Content

An extensive collection of published works by and relating to Basil Bunting, manuscripts and papers, photographs, cinefilms and sound recordings; Bunting believed that sound was integral to poetic form, and that poetry must be heard. The manuscripts and papers include drafts by a number of other poets (notably D.G. Bridson, Robert Allison Evans, Lorine Niedecker and Louis Zukovsky), which they or their friends sent to Bunting for comment.

Administrative / Biographical History

Basil Bunting's poetry is deeply rooted in the landscape, history, language and culture of his native Northumbria, where he spent his youth, and to which he returned for the last three decades of his life. A close friend of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukovsky, he was associated in the thirties with the American Objectivist poets. In the fifties and early sixties his work suffered a period of eclipse, but his reputation was re-established by the publication in 1965 of his long poem Briggflatts.

Principal pamphlets and books of poems: Redimiculum matellarum (1930), Poems 1950 (1950), The spoils (1965), First book of odes (1965), Loquitur (1965), Briggflatts (1966), Two poems (1967), What the chairman told Tom (1967), Collected poems (1968, later eds with additional material 1970, 1978, 1985), Selected poems of Joseph Skipsey, ed. Basil Bunting (1976), Complete poems (1994).

Biographical details: 1900-1918 born 1 March 1900 at Scotswood on Tyne; childhood spent in North East England, except for education at Ackworth and Leighton Park schools (both Quaker establishments). 1918-1919 imprisoned as conscientious objector, World War I. 1920-1930 student at London School of Economics, briefly secretary to Harry Barnes, Newcastle M.P., and assistant in Paris to Ford Madox Ford on the Transatlantic review. Visited his mentor Ezra Pound at Rapallo and settled there briefly. Returned to England 1924, lectured at a Northumberland workingmen's college. Bohemian life in London literary circles, journalist, music critic for The outlook and The town crier. Retreated to rural Northumberland to write poetry, helped by patroness Margaret de Silver. 1930-1940 Married Marian Culver 1930 (2 daughters; 1 son, whom he never saw; wife left him 1937). Unsettled existence during the thirties in USA, at Rapallo with Pound, and in the Canaries. Sailed his boat and attended nautical school 1937-38. 1940-1952 War service in RAF (in Intelligence; served in Iran, thanks to knowledge of classical Persian acquired in order to read Firdausi to Pound) ending as Squadron Leader. Vice Consul Isfahan, Assistant Counsellor, British embassy, Teheran 1947-1948. Married Sima Alladallian 1948 (1 daughter, 1 son). Times correspondent in Teheran 1949-1952; expelled from Iran 1952. 1952-1985 Sub-editor Newcastle Daily Journal and later Newcastle Evening Chronicle 1954-1966. 1964 onwards, creative resurgence, stimulated by the young Newcastle poet, Tom Pickard. Northern Arts fellow in poetry at the Universities of Durham and Northumberland 1968-1970. President of the Poetry Society 1972. President of Northern Arts 1974-1977. Died 17 April 1985.

Durham University Library's Basil Bunting Poetry Archive was founded in 1987, with the purchase of the collection on Bunting formed by his biographer, Roger Guedalla. The Archive continues to grow, and is now the most extensive collection in the UK of Bunting's work and of material relating to him.


The Archive is arranged in 5 sections:

  • 1. Printed material:
    • 1/1. Books and articles:
      • A. Works by Bunting, arranged chronologically.
      • B. Works about Bunting, arranged chronologically.
      • C. Standard editions of works of authors closely associated with Bunting, arranged by author.
    • E. Other books of modern poetry
    • 1/2. Reviews of Bunting's publications, arranged in folders for each publication reviewed.
    • 1/3. Cuttings, ephemera, publicity for publications and recordings, arranged in folders chronologically by year.
  • 2. Manuscripts and papers, arranged in order of accession, with a structured index.
  • 3. Sound recordings.
  • 4. Videos.
  • 5. Photographs.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by purchase and gift from various sources, 1987 onwards, with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Purchase Grant Fund, English Estates North and others.



Other Finding Aids

Printed material: books and articles are recorded in the Library catalogue and can be located by a shelf mark search (incorporated into the following URL; reviews and cuttings etc are not listed, but can be ordered for consultation by folder.

Manuscripts and papers: online catalogue available at online catalogue- an updated version of an original word-processed list, with manuscript index.

Sound recordings and videos are recorded in the Library catalogue and can be located by a shelf mark search (incorporated into the following URL

Photographs: accession records only.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Active collecting continues.


Guedalla, Roger, Basil Bunting: a Bibliography of Works and Criticism Norwood, Pa. Norwood Editions, 1973). Covers items published up to the end of 1971.  Guedalla, Roger, Basil Bunting: a Bibliography of Works and CriticismPoetry Information 19 (Autumn 1978) 73-89. Descriptions of individual items are much abridged from those in the 1973 edition but the bibliography is updated to cover publications to May 1978. Guedalla, Roger, Books and Pamphlets by or edited by Basil Bunting, Paideuma 9 no.1 (Spring 1980) 173-200. Reprint of the relevant section from Guedalla's 1973 bibliography; not updated for later publications  Wilde, Dana, Year by Year Bibliography of Basil Bunting, in Basil Bunting Man and Poet ed. C.F. Terrell (Orono, National Poetry Foundation, 1981), 357-373. A chronological rearrangement of the information on publications by (but not about) Bunting from Guedalla's 1978 listing, not updated.  Nord, Roland, A Bibliography of Works about Basil Bunting with Extended CommentaryBasil Bunting Man and Poet pp. 375-427  Caddel, Richard, and Flowers, Anthony, Basil Bunting a northern life (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1997)

Additional Information

In 1989 the University founded the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre, which hosts visiting scholars and students, to foster academic and creative work associated with the Archive.