A Northumbrian poet (1900-1985), who was hailed as one of the great voices of English poetry, but not as well known as he should be. He is lyrical and compact, writing of nature imbued with history: the feel of Northumbria is particularly important to him.
His principal work is the long "autobiography" Briggflatts (1966). Other works include Redimiculum Matellarum, The Spoils, First Book of Odes, and Loquitur. An excerpt from Briggflatts:
Drip -- icicle's gone.
Slur, ratio, tone,
chime dilute what's done
as a flute clarifies song,
trembling phrase fading to pause
then glow. Solstice past,
years and crescendo.
Winter wrings pigment
from petal and slough
but thin light lays
white next red on sea-crow wing,
gruff sole cormorant
whose grief turns carnival.
Even a bangle of birds
to bind sleeve to wrist
as west wind waves to east
a just perceptible greeting --
sinews ripple the weave,
threads flex, slew, hues meeting,
parting in whey-blue haze.
He was born on 1 March 1900 in Newcastle, was a conscientious objector in the First World War, and became a disciple of Ezra Pound. He went to a Quaker boarding school in the West Riding: Brigflatts (sic) is the name of a meeting-house. He associated with the Bloomsbury Group in London; and in Paris with Ernest Hemingway, Ford Madox Ford, and Constantin Brancusi. He met Yeats in Rapallo in 1929; when he lived in the Canary Islands he once played chess with the governor, General Franco.
Having taught himself Persian, and having fought in the Near East in the Second World War, Bunting was employed as an MI6 agent in Iran. When he was expelled by Mossadeq in 1951, he brought back a teenage Iranian wife.
Cyril Connnolly said he was "both a romantic and so meticulous a craftsman rich in mind and ear". Hugh McDiarmid said his poems were the most important to have appeared in any form of the English language since The Waste Land. There is a Basil Bunting Poetry Centre at the University of Durham, in Northumberland.
If you sit in silence, if you empty your head of all the things you usually waste your brain thinking about, there is some faint hope that something, no doubt out of the unconscious or where you will, will appear just as George Fox would have called it, the Voice of God; and that will bring you, if not nearer God, at any rate nearer your own built-in certainties.