Basil Bunting 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 latticework of the Lindisfarne Gospels, while thematically it recalls Wordsworth’s Prelude.
Bunting wrote that ‘Poetry, like music, is to be heard.’ His own readings of his own work are essential listening for a full appreciation of his highly musical poetry. This new edition 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 (and a posthumously published additional Note), the new edition includes his seminal essay on sound and meaning in poetry, ‘The Poet’s Point of View’ (1966), and other background material.
All his poetry is available in Complete Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2000). ‘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.