Bunting on Wyat (sic) .
(In Basil Bunting on Poetry ed. Peter Makin
It’s interesting when poets I admire admire the poets I admire. And I think Bunting nails some of the things I like about Wyatt‘s verse. He also suggests something that has always intrigued me. Wyatt is regarded as one of the first English poets to go to Italy for his models, and to bring back not only the sonnet but Petrach. But Wyatt Englished Petrach, or Wyatted him, in way some of his successors failed to do. To put it in Bunting’s Northern voice:
“The cruel mistress of Wyat’s poems is not someone to despair over. He is quite ready to give her the chuck if she goes on refusing him.”
To give her the chuck...You can hear the poet saying "bugger this " in "whoso list to hunt" and then compare it to the Petrach piece it's supposed to be "translating".
The other difference is that, despite the forests of Tudor pine in the collected, Wyat’s women seem far more real than Petrach's. As Bunting says, Laura was an excuse for poetry.
“There is hardly ever any reason to remember where Wyat found his material; and indeed for the most part he found it in his own head (the translations are not so many); or he found it in the eyes of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Darrell, and the other ladies who felt the force of his love and his poetry.”
Those naked arms, long and small, in They flee from me, seem to belong to a real woman.
Or to put it another way, in Wyatt’s poetry an individual voice wrestles with conventions and refuses to be stilled by them.
What I really don’t like about “Bunting on Poetry” is the editorial apparatus. Peter Makin may be a renowned Bunting scholar (I’m guessing he is) but be fusses round the text like a child worried about the impression a beloved but wayward parent is going to make at the Sunday school party. Extended end notes refute, challenge support and explain Bunting’s comments as though Makin wants whatever is said to be RIGHT. It’s a very odd way of presenting material. I’d have preferred the book of lectures without the intro and footnotes which could have been published as “What Bunting Should Have Said”. And that would be a book I wouldn’t pay for.
Though you could imagine someone doing it to Pound's ABC of Reading, or of Graves' lectures. “There is no evidence to support Graves’ suggestion that Anglo- Saxon poetry is based on the rhythm of oars, so what follows is really rather silly and you should go read Professor Bosti Fidget’s unreadable but seminal disquisition on the influence of post colonial feminist economics in the post roman provinces on the development of alliterative metres.”