Briggflatts, par excellence
a poem by Basil Bunting, published in 1966, and widely regarded as the last major work of poetic Modernism. Prior to its composition in 1965, Bunting had written little since returning to Britain from Persia in 1952; the growth of interest in his poetry initiated by Tom Pickard stimulated Bunting to produce Briggflatts. Having accumulated over 10,000 lines, he concentrated his material into the 700 lines of text constituting the published work; into its five sections the poem compresses fifty years of autobiographical experience vividly inlaid with observational detail, mostly drawn from Bunting's natural surroundings in Northumbria. The elegiac retrospection, both personal and historical, and stoical anticipation of death that are thematically central often fuse inextricably with the lyric and celebratory modes affirming the poem's sustaining sense of locality. The emphatically Northumbrian character of Briggflatts makes it a manifestation par excellence of regional poetry. The poem's strongly alliterative language and purposive allusions to Norse and Celtic cultures unequivocally align it with northern poetic traditions. Bunting claimed its structure was determined upon the model of Scarlatti's compositional procedures before any of the text was written; he insisted that the verbal music of Briggflatts took primacy over any considerations of meaning, thus drawing attention to the rich orchestration of consonantal and assonantal correspondences maintained with great skill throughout the poem.
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