Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bunting, Wyatt, editors.

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.”


Unknown said...

Wow, just reading Graves's grand Harp, Anvil Oar lecture - I know what you mean, though. He didn't make apologies for his theories (well, excepting in the first lecture - and even then it's all down to the Muse...).

Liam Guilar said...

Ah the Muse.
She has a lot to answer for in Graves' scheme, doesn't she?
But reading Graves on poetry is always... Instructive? and enjoyable. It's such a pleasure compared with reading a lot of critics. Even when he's wrong, or being deliberately wrong headed, there's something magnificent about the upright "Here I stand like it, or lump it" part of it.

I like "These be your God's" as well: I was not the kind of boy who liked breaking windows, says he, and then gleefully stands there and sticks the boot into all and sundry.

Unknown said...

That's what I like about Graves too, he may be wrong, but he doesn't care. And over the years I find that he's great to have arguments with (well, in my mind - he is dead after all...); he makes you think about what your own stance is.