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on 3 July 2001
Bunting was a friend of Ezra Pound's, and Pound provides the starting point for these poems. Bunting kept to Pound's imagist-era ideas about what made a poem (no superflous words, concentration on the thing etc.) much more than Pound did -- although Pound went in his own wonderful and maddening direction with the later Cantos. Bunting was an unusually late developer. His early poems are notably Poundian, although enjoyable. His most remarkable poems are from his sixties: the poem-autobiography 'Brigflatts' (according to Thom Gunn one of the best poems of the century), and the perfect 'Second Book of Odes', a collection of short poems. In these later poems you are aware of lines that Pound could never have written: "We have loved and the sun is up"; "And today I am only fourteen years old". There is satirical bite here too ("Poetry! my six-year-old can do it -- and rhyme"), a real ear for colloquialism too. In Bunting I find a human solidness lacking in Pound's poetry: more humour, more interest in people -- perhaps as the result of greater experience and a more self-critical attitude. Bunting also translated from the Latin and Persian: and these really do what is often claimed for translations -- work as poems. Like Eliot, he was a scrupulous pruner and arranger of his work, so in this book there are no weak poems.
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on 21 February 2014
This book gives a good cross section on Bunting's work. I am doing a project on him, so it is proving very useful.
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on 2 March 2016
His emphasis on being music to the ears and as difficult and impenetrable as his sometime patron modernist forebear contemporary Ezra Pound, I see as unfortunate for his work. Too many membranes of poetishness need to be peeled back before any meaning or access might be expounded, and then when you've panned for that gold, you realise it was hardly worth the effort, like the equation of a person in survival mode who goes through the rigmarole of preparing a meal - skinning the rabbit, collecting the greens etc - whose calorie input is less than the calorie output it takes to actually forage and cook the damn thing. It leaves you essentially with a deficit. But you're the other side of the road by then, so really, what can you do or say? Not much. The experience stands out because it isn't often you go through that; that's all. And that's about all I can say for this book.
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