All the cants they peddle
bellow entangled,
teeth for knots and
each other’s ankles,
to become stipendiary
in any wallow;
crow or weasel
each to his fellow.

Yet even these,
even these might
listen as crags
listen to light
and pause, uncertain
of the next beat,
each dancer alone
with his foolhardy feet.

    Basil Bunting, 1969


  1. Going Dotty in Kansas says

    Ah! I choose to read this as a political commentary. Most enlightening. Thank you, Mr. Hat, and happy holidays to us all!

  2. This made me want to look up recordings of Bunting reading his work: I’m listening to Briggflatts now… found here.

  3. Fabulous! (and I wish you’d post more poetry, because I almost always like your choices and they’re almost always new to me.)

  4. Great poem, and I’ll look up Bunting soon.
    I spent a certain amount of time remembering the word “cant” used in carpentry for some kind of wedge or shim. They might be peddled, but I decided there was no relationship to the poem..

  5. always pleasantly astonished to be reminded how good this stuff is.
    would you believe, incidentally, that it is impossible to buy a copy of anything by Bunting in Newcastle upon Tyne? local poet, published by a local press, and they tell us we’re living in a City of Culture…

  6. urban jim: That’s really shocking.

  7. Ah! Sometimes when you read stuff like this it makes you wince at some, not all, of the boring atrocities (I like the sound of that!) that language and ‘post-avant” poetics have created.

  8. “would you believe, incidentally, that it is impossible to buy a copy of anything by Bunting in Newcastle upon Tyne”
    The last time I looked there was a Carcanet edition of his complete poems in Waterstones (Emerson Building) and a relatively rare copy of his lectures – Bunting on Poetry – in Waterstones (Grey Street). Run before they sell out!

  9. Yes, indeed, let us have more poetry!

  10. squiffy-marie von bladet says

    Faber and/or Faber have decided, in the wake of Carcanet doing a Collected, that only an authoritative Faber and/or Faber Collected will do.

    “No thanks”, I told them one time that I admittedly wasn’t in Newcastle upon Tyne, “we’ve already got one”. (I got mine in the London Review Bookshop in old Londontown which might be considered cheating.)

  11. Bunting must have more Collecteds than any other semi-forgotten poet of the 20th century.

  12. Brief? Well, if you’re used to essays that go on for pages in the NYRB and LRB, I guess. Anyway, very nice, thanks for posting it! It’s a good introduction to man and poet, with some delightful tidbits:

    As a London Times correspondent in Tehran, in 1952, he watched as a hired mob congregated outside his hotel and chanted, “DEATH TO MR. BUNTING!” Guessing, correctly, that nobody calling for Mr. Bunting’s death had ever seen the man, Bunting joined the mob and chanted along with them.

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