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Basil Bunting Biography

(1900–85), Transatlantic Review, Redimiculum Mattelarum, Collected Poems, The Spoils, Shah-nama, Briggflatts, Poems, Evening Chronicle

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British poet, born at Scotswood, Northumberland, educated at Quaker schools in Yorkshire and Berkshire and at the London School of Economics. He became Ford Madox Ford's assistant on the Transatlantic Review in Paris in 1923 and was subsequently a journalist in London. In 1929 he joined Ezra Pound, whom he had known in Paris, at Rapollo in Italy, remaining there until 1933. Bunting's first volume of poetry, Redimiculum Mattelarum, was published in Milan in 1930. W. B. Yeats referred to him as one of Pound's ‘more savage disciples’; the compression of language, sense of the autonomy of poetic form, and the allusive habits of his verse indicate the debt to Pound he acknowledges in his introduction to his Collected Poems (1968; revised 1978 and 1990). After interludes in the Canary Islands and Britain, during the Second World War he was an interpreter with the RAF in Persia, where he remained as vice-consul at Isfahan until 1952. The Spoils (1965) reflects his wartime experiences. His interest in Persian literature led him to incorporate elements from the Persian epic Shah-nama (lit. ‘Book of Kings’) into the central section of Briggflatts (1966), the poem which made him well-known in Britain. Poems (1950) had been well received in the USA; on his return to Britain in 1952 he was, however, effectively unheard of and worked until 1966 on Newcastle's Evening Chronicle. Tom Pickard stimulated British interest in Bunting's work, arranging for publication of The Spoils in 1965; Loquitur (1965), a collection of early poems, and First Book of Odes (1966) followed, preparing for the rapid establishment of his considerable reputation with Briggflatts and Collected Poems. Donald Davie's Under Briggflatts (1989) argues for Bunting's central importance to British poetry of the previous thirty years as a master of the modernist idiom who remained rooted in the cultural and syntactical traditions of English verse. His other works include Version of Horace (1972) and Uncollected Poems (edited by Richard Caddell, 1991). See Objectivist Poetry.

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