From “5 Career Moves Negotiated In The Dark On A Back Step In Northern Europe” (2000):


This heavy slab. Our memory,
tone of our plant life trained
to go round it. Beat
it out and we pulse

together, it’s a wonder
we don’t rave daily. Whack!
Whack! go another’s
psychotic dreams, the sad

sky path we all must walk.
Light goes, it does, now, so
stars show, us under them,
breathing, apart, blessed.

Richard Caddel was in a long line of excellent, obscure poets of the northeast of England, the old Northumbria celebrated by his teacher Basil Bunting. I was aware of him because of the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre he helped establish; thanks to wood s lot, I have discovered his own poetry, which I intend to investigate further. Caddel died of leukemia on April 1. From a memoir by Tony Baker:

Snails were bound to appeal to him: they move slowly — as he did, for he rarely enjoyed good health having been handed asthma and a fragile frame at birth — they do all with seeming deliberation and live along the margins of open spaces where their own fragile frames offer protection against most things except brute force. They’re emblematic of that affinity with borders and border creatures that Caddel made a primary political and aesthetic concern in his writing. It’s not by accident that his work has been translated, not into the more likely European languages, but principally into Czech, Estonian, Lithuanian, Polish and Dutch, regions either linguistically enclosed by more dominant tongues or sited on the frontier between an east and a west where local cultures have a long history of vulnerability to distant, dominant forces.

It’s the same affinity that allowed Caddel to identify with, and make his home in, the north-east; or more specifically that reduced part of the old Northumbria which approaches the Borders — the land extending from Lindisfarne, through the dales and hills as they fall into Cumbria. Born in Bedford in 1949 and brought up in Gillingham, he came to Newcastle as a student in 1968, studied music, english and history, subsequently qualifying as a librarian, and never again left the region. His meeting with Basil Bunting, who was the university’s poetry fellow at the time, was perhaps decisive in forging his links with the north east, for Bunting was not only an inspiring teacher whose poetic methods of musical economy were perfectly suited to Caddel’s natural inclinations; he was also a determined champion of what became a central concern in Caddel’s own writing, ‘the local’. If this contact ultimately led to one of Caddel’s most enduring contributions to the north-east — his editions of Bunting’s Uncollected Poems in 1991, Complete Poems in 1993 and his part in the establishment of the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre at Durham, of which he remained a director to his death — Caddel was always wary of too much talk of ‘influence’. He was aware that for the traditions of ‘the local’ to mean anything — and he would have applied this to any version of the local, whether that constructed by his friends and fellow-writers on the European frontiers or that of Lorine Niedecker, whose writing he loved, on the shores of Lake Superior — then it had to be part of ‘a living, evolving tradition, or it’s nothing’.


  1. this moved me to tears, and having scoured anthologies for bunting and seem like bunting, this was important. i want to be a local poet talking about local things.
    thank you

  2. yes, that has always appealed to me too (local poetry, accessible to all). i liked bunting’s “What the Chairman told Tom” (under “some bunting poems and quotes” at the basil bunting poetry centre.)i didn’t know caddel’s work at all.

  3. thinking about this today, what does local mean, how do we live buntings maxim when i am posting on blogs and im’ming and transatlantically calling, and reading in translation and watching tv etc etc.

  4. Stuart Falconer says

    Richard Caddel arrived at the Peoples Theatre, Newcastle, one evening in 1974, having heard that we were putting on some poetry readings. I was very much a novice writer in those days (still am, when I come to think of it) and he was the first “real” poet I’d met. The outcome of our meeting was that a few months later he and I did a joint reading at the theatre. His was, by a long way, the more important contribution to that evening. I loved his economy with words, the way he always used exactly the right words and nothing else in every line, every verse, and also that he had dedicated himself so completely, his whole life in fact, to poetry.
    I saw him only once after that, in the late 70s. He was friendly, in his quiet way, and we talked about his small-press publishing venture “Pig Press,” which he had recently set up. After that I lost touch with him. I only learned about his work with the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre when I saw his obituary in The Newcastle Journal.
    I often had the vague feeling that there was something fragile about him, something which he managed to disguise pretty well. I was very sorry to learn that he had passed away, much too early. People like Richard don’t wash in on every tide. I know he will be missed.

  5. Back in 2003 I don’t seem to have taken the trouble to investigate the poem’s title; now I’ve consulted the OED and discovered it s.v. pavior, sense 2:

    2. A slab of stone or other material prepared for use as paving; a paving stone or paving tile. Also as a mass noun.

    1611 T. Coryate Crudities sig. P6 The walke a little without paued with Diamond pauier contriued partly with free stone, and partly with red marble.
    1720 R. Carter Let. 13 July (1940) 16 Instead of 1,000 foot of board paviour, which I wrote to you for before, I now desire you to send me in two thousand foot.
    1829 S. Glover Hist. County of Derby I. 88 Flags or paviers, and slate or tile stones.
    1856 Jrnl. Soc. Arts 6 June 491/2 The numerous titles of the London bricks..are wash bricks, grey stocks, rough stocks, paviours, pickings, [etc.].
    1974 Observer 22 Sept. (Colour Suppl.) 39/2 Terrace outside and floor inside covered with inexpensive brick paviors—durable and easy to clean.
    2000 Jrnl. (Newcastle) 1 Apr. 228 Front gardens are turfed and drives are finished with block pavior.

  6. I’ve always called them pavers but this pavior word (not the pronunciation, though) seems vaguely familiar (unless it’s déjà-vu) from England and if you google (the image), they’re still sold. I see that a pavior is or was also someone laying the paviors. The spelling is unpredictable, sometimes pavier, sometimes like saviour:

    1842 C. Dickens Let. 13 Mar. (1974) III. 126 I do a good deal of work as a Paviour in Hell, in common with most men; but I keep many pledges too.

    The Paviours Arms was an Art Deco pub in Westminster frequented by MPs until it closed in 2003.

  7. Yeah, I should have included the first sense as well, especially since I suppose it might be the title’s sense:

    A person who lays paving. In later use sometimes: spec. (usually in form Pavior) a member of the Worshipful Company of Paviors, a livery company of the City of London. Also figurative.

    1423 in R. W. Chambers & M. Daunt Bk. London Eng. (1931) 154 (MED) Item, ȝoven to Stevene Brewer for to Fetche stones to be paviers, owt of þe litell Celer, to make with þe same pament, iiij d.
    1579 W. Fulke Confut. Treat. N. Sander in D. Heskins Ouerthrowne 671 The pauier hath made the lyke woorke of historie vppon the pauemente.
    ?1648 King Charles I in G. Burnet Mem. Dukes Hamilton (1677) 382 The Corner-stone’s misplac’d by every Pavier; With such a bloody method and behaviour, Their Ancestors did crucifie our Saviour.
    1785 Daily Universal Reg. 6 Oct. 4/2 In the beginning of this, or the end of the last century, one Baker, a paviour of Dublin excelled in Falstaff.
    1842 C. Dickens Let. 13 Mar. (1974) III. 126 I do a good deal of work as a Paviour in Hell, in common with most men; but I keep many pledges too.
    1881 Chester (Pa.) Daily Times 4 May 3/1 Those paviors at work on Edgmont avenue have a good many overseers.
    1928 Times 9 Oct. 11/4 Frank Stephen Dryden, a pavior, employed by the Wallsend Corporation, was remanded in custody for a week.
    2002 Jrnl. (Newcastle) 27 Sept. 75 Hundreds of young people have found work as joiners, painters, electricians, bricklayers, paviors and plumbers.

  8. ‘Aye,’ said Mr Munns, with relish, ‘I knew a fellow like that. Went clean off his rocker he did one night. Smashed up his family with a beetle—a paviour he was by profession, and that’s how he came to have a beetle in the house—pounded ’em to a jelly, he did, his wife and five little children, and went off and drownded himself in the Regent’s Canal. And, what’s more, when they got him out, he didn’t remember a word about it, not one word. So they sent him to—what’s that place? Dartmoor? no, Broadmoor, that’s it, where Ronnie True went to with his little toys and all.’

    —Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, on the subject of “shell shock” (PTSD)

  9. David Marjanović says

    Smashed up his family with a beetle

    An actual beatle by etymology! Except with umlaut.

  10. David Eddyshaw says

    The Paviours Arms was an Art Deco pub in Westminster frequented by MPs until it closed in 2003.

    And, indeed, by doctors and medical students from the more highfalutin London teaching hospitals. I remember it well, though not any MPs. Mind you, I was less interested in MPs in those days. It were a simple life, but we were ‘appy.

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