RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Basil Bunting

‘One makes many’: Laurie Duggan’s Allotments from Shearsman

‘One makes many’: Laurie Duggan’s Allotments from Shearsman

One of the two epigraphs to Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems is the phrase that the poet overheard in 1953 at Black Mountain College when the cook, Cornelia Williams, said ‘All my life I’ve heard one makes many’. The phrase struck a chord with Olson and in his copy of A.N. Whitehead’s Process and Reality where the Ramsgate-born Mathematician and Philosopher had written ‘the term many presupposes the term one, and the term one presupposes the term many’ he scribbled ‘exactly Cornelia Williams, Black Mt kitchen, 1953’.

On the back of this beautifully produced new Shearsman collection of 100 short poems Fiona Wright has written ‘The small poems…slowly build up to a much larger narrative; a narrative of time and memory, of thinking and being in the world, a kind of history that is happening on the sidelines.’Or, to put it in Laurie Duggan’s words in ‘Allotment #62’:

 

to make much of little

where perception and act are one

 

each thing in its place

spread over the garden

 

poppy seeds of various hue

stolen from elsewhere

 

The delight of many of these poems, ‘Pansies’, pensées, is the sure touch of language in which that ‘perception’ and the act of the words on the page cohere to form a picture, a vignette. Some of them are just that: a picture, a photograph clicked in an instant:

 

a robin lands, curious

as I grub weeds

(‘Allotment #41’)

 

One can see the curiosity of the robin as though a head tilted to one side were there on the page; the movement from lightness of the bird to the more ponderous work of the man is caught in the contrast of sound between ‘lands’ and ‘grub’. The coherence of the picture is given to us with the dual meaning of that second word.

The connectedness between a sharply perceived ‘here’ and the shadow cast on the ground by a ‘then’ is held in

 

a moment’s silence

with Gael Turnbull,

Brigflatts Meeting House, 1987

 

later

on Hardknott Pass

November cold

 

(posted there

Legionaries

from Africa

(‘Allotment #49’)

 

The witty, almost mischievous, association between the surname of the founder of Migrant Press and the opening line of Bunting’s poem is never allowed to rest with the self-satisfaction that can come as the result of a pun; we have already moved on in time (‘later’) and the cold of the Pass bridges a ‘now’ and the builders of Hadrian’s Wall.

Laurie Duggan has an infectious awareness of history and his precision allows the reader to share moments rather like a pebble dropped in a well on the surface of which ‘stones ring.

 

Allotment #93

 

All Hallows approaches

the bar strung with rubber bats,

 

telescopes, astrolabes

obscure the windows.

 

Pepys drank in this pub

(the Thames, Wapping

 

above the tunnel

to Rotherhithe)

 

further out, rotten wharves,

hulks on the estuary bed

 

empty sea-forts

subject to slow rust

 

Ian Brinton 11th April 2014

 

 

‘the clink of the stonemason’s chisel’

‘the clink of the stonemason’s chisel’

A Strong Song Tows Us, The Life of Basil Bunting, by Richard Burton (Infinite Ideas)

 

This is an astonishingly individual, direct and engaging biography of one of the most important poets of the twentieth-century; it possesses that hallmark of the serious work, a sense that it really matters to the writer. As Richard Burton takes us through his reasons behind committing the past three years to this work he opens up a picture of a landscape, Bunting’s autobiographical poem Briggflatts, ‘as the spine of this life’:

 

‘Bunting’s poem acts as the Pennine Chain of this book, holding its landscape together on the one hand and, I hope, providing vistas that help us see the hinterland of Bunting’s work.’

 

This is not a review of Burton’s biography but merely a sign posting readers towards the review which will appear in Tears in the Fence 59. That said, let the difficulty of the biographer’s task remain uppermost in the mind as one reads Bunting’s response to Faber’s Editorial Director when asked for an endorsement which could be used as blurb for the cover of the Collected Early Poems of Ezra Pound:

 

Thank you for sending me the book. It makes me shudder. No doubt it is fitting that maggots consume us in the end, or at least the rubbish we scatter as we go; but I’d rather leave the lid on my dustbin and the earth on my friends’ graves. Piety takes curious forms: the toenail clippings of Saint What’s His Name are revered. I don’t think religion is much advanced by that. It would be more profitable, more to his glory, to throw away some of the poems Pound printed than to print those he threw away himself. I apologise for my lack of sympathy for the industrious compilers.

 

Ian Brinton January 17th 2014

Ian Heames’ Out Of Villon

Ian Heames’ Out Of Villon

Last Saturday at the Free Verse poetry book fair in Conway Hall I ran into Ian Heames who was manning a stall alongside Justin Katko. Katko’s press, Critical Documents (http://plantarchy.us), has published some very important material over the past couple of years including J.H. Prynne’s Kazoo Dreamboats, Josh Stanley’s Contra Night Escha Black, Ryan Dobran’s Ding Ding as well as work by Ian Heames such as Gloss To Carriers.

 

There is a lyrical energy weaving its way through Ian Heames’s poems and I was much struck by small pamphlet poem Out Of Villon which has been published by cucpress (cucpress.tumblr.com). Here I found myself reading echoes of Robert Browning filtered through Basil Bunting and Stephen Rodefer:

 

This evening, select, extant

Dictating these discrepant lays

All day by the bell of Sorbonne

 

That predicted angel who has none hour sounds

 

At the time, I felt Lady Memory

To begin again in the metro

 

By doing this I’m drinking wine

By force

 

My asperity is a lyre.

 

This poem is dated December 1st 2009 and was published in 2011. Look out for it; it is a haunting poem which won’t quite leave you alone. Ian Heames has also edited an interesting little magazine, No Prizes, issue 2 of which appeared earlier this year. It contains work by Bill Fuller and Sean Bonney as well as Jeremy Prynne’s thoughts on Peter Larkin which had been delivered at the inaugural event of the un-American Activities reading series in May of this year in Cambridge.

 

Ian Brinton

 

 

Gael Turnbull on Poets & Poetry

Gael Turnbull on Poets & Poetry

This new publication from Shearsman is a long overdue collection of reviews, essays, memoirs and journal pieces by Gael Turnbull, a figure who is central to the world of 1960s Anglo-American poetry.

There is a section on Basil Bunting which includes an account of how Turnbull helped to bring about a meeting between Bunting and Peggy (she of ‘Fifty years a letter unanswered; / a visit postponed for fifty years’) as well as his own account of his visit to the poet of Wylam in the Winter of 1965.

There are essays/articles on Carlos Williams, Corman, Robert Duncan, Ginsberg, Burroughs and an excellent short piece on the publication of the Stuttgart edition of Olson’s Maximus Poems 1-10. Charles Tomlinson obtained his copies of the two Jonathan Williams volumes from Gael Turnbull as he records in his autobiographical sketches reprinted by Carcanet as American Essays: Making It New.

There is a section on British poets which includes essential work on Roy Fisher whose major poem, City, was first published by Turnbull’s Migrant Press in May 1961.

To register the Anglo-American connection within Turnbull’s work it is worth looking at issue 8, the last of his Migrant journals. It contains work by Edwin Morgan, Charles Olson, Anselm Hollo, Michael Shayer, Larry Eigner, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Roy Fisher.

As Jill Turnbull makes clear in her introductory comments Tony Frazer is responsible for the footnotes in the volume and they are absolutely spot on: unobtrusive but highly informative.

%d bloggers like this: