Thursday, March 31, 2016

Faber's Long Awaited Basil Bunting the Complete Poems. 1/3

I will return to Joseph Campbell, and the footnote poets.  Chronic illness has a way of interrupting plans. However, one is excited.  

(What follows was meant to be a short expression of excitement, but it got out of hand. There were fascinating rabbit holes which just appeared as I was writing it and since I’m not late for any important dates, I gleefully accepted their invitation.  So this ended up in three parts).

Part one:
Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, even further than last Friday, Faber began advertising a hardback edition of Basil Bunting’s Complete Poems, edited by Don Share.

The current Amazon blurb reads:
This is the first critical edition of the complete poems, and offers an accurate text with variants from all printed sources. Don Share annotates Bunting's often complex and allusive verse, with much illuminating quotation from his prose writings, interviews and correspondence. He also examines Bunting's use of sources (including Persian literature and classical mythology), and explores the Northumbrian roots of Bunting's poetic vocabulary and use of dialect.

I preordered mine in April 2010, and at regular intervals for the past five years I have been receiving updates from Amazon, which politely tell me they are still waiting for the book to be published.  

But now, six years later, there is a publication date of 16th of June and an estimated delivery date.

One is excited.

Why? That’s a good question. Well, there is dearth of things Bunting so anything new is welcome.

The claim that this is the first ‘critical edition’ is perhaps bending the definitions of the word ‘critical’.  There’s a Complete Poems, published by BloodAxe (1999) and edited by Richard Caddel. It contains a section of  ‘uncollected poems’. It’s a paperback and mine is starting to fall apart. It was falling apart five years ago so a hardback at least promises longevity.

There’s a chance that there remain some poems that are not in Caddel’s edition. Richard Burton published at least one previously unpublished piece in his recent biography, A Strong Song Tows Us (2014). The complete Persian poems, as recently published separately by Don Share, Bunting’s Persia (2013), will hopefully be included. There’s always the possibility of drafts, which could be enlightening to those of us interested in ‘how he did it’. 

But there’s also the danger of dredging up pieces that do the poet’s reputation no favors.  I think there’s a good reason why Eliot turned down some of the Persian translations. And Ode 11 in the First Book of Odes ‘Narciss, my numerous cancellations prefer’ expressed Bunting’s strong opinions on the subject, in response, To a Poet who advised me to preserve/my fragments and false starts.

In Part two, the problem of Annotations.

New poem in this month's Rotary Dial.

Another month, another poem in this month's Rotary Dial. Clicking on the link will take you to the journal......April Rotary Dial

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Easter Uprising, Dublin 1916

Between the Lines: a Family Myth*

‘My Grandfather refused to choose
between the Crown and the Republic,
too busy dreaming horseflesh
to care who claimed the soil.
His brothers cared.
One marched behind the Union Jack
to squalid terror on the Somme.
The other shot that hated rag to shreds
in Dublin’s Easter rising.

When visiting they’d set up camp
in separate rooms and send my Grandad
scurrying with messages: to mother
or muted brotherly defiance.
This was his freedom and his punishment:
the right to move between the lines,
the curse of not belonging
in the place that he’d called home.

I have to say I see my Grandad’s point.
The bitter brother hating war
didn’t stop the endless rain
or sell a horse for two bob more:
but then again, I see his brothers’ too
I know their songs, their stories,
know their heroes’ names
and stand, struck numb,
before the things they had to do in France.

So I shuttle like my Grandfather
between contending propositions
knowing that my place will be
between the lines:
remembering it was
Grandad’s house

both sides blew to rubble’.

* please note the inverted commas. I am relaying the story as I was told it. First published in 'I'll Howl Before You Bury Me'/