Basil Bunting vs T. S. Eliot

A19f83be-a0f8-11e6-892c-b307b90cd9b1Mark Hutchinson at the Times Literary Supplement:

It was at this point that Bunting approached Eliot for the third, and possibly fourth, time (dates in Bunting’s life tend to be a bit slippery, and accounts differ as to whether he went to him once or twice). First, in late 1950, with a copy of Poems: 1950, a book compiled and published by one of Pound’s crankier American disciples that is basically a revised and updated version of the Redimiculum Matellarum typescript, with a few early poems stripped out and replaced by odes from the late 1930s and 40s (“Let them remember Samangan”, “The Orotava Road”), and one of the first and most beautiful of Bunting’s translations from the Persian, “When the sword of sixty” (which Eliot did, incidentally, publish, in the Criterion, in 1936); plus “The Well of Lycopolis”, a long and “very bitter” poem, as Bunting was later to describe it, written in the Canaries in 1935 and featuring Venus as a garrulous old whore. Then (if Richard Burton, the author of the biography A Strong Song Tows Us – reviewed in the TLS, June 20, 2014 – is correct), a second time, in 1952, with the same book plus “The Spoils”, a recent poem based on his experience in the Middle East that had been published in Poetry in November 1951. Yet again Eliot turned him down, and, judging by the account Bunting gave to Zukofsky (in reported speech, note), in no uncertain terms: “The poetry is good, some of it very good indeed, and the writing is clean and workmanlike, with no fluff, but . . . they are still too much under the influence of Pound for the stage which you have reached”.

For Bunting, who was now well into ­middle age and once more casting about for employment, it must have been like being slapped down by the head prefect. The next twelve years were his traversée du désert, as he toiled to support his family in a succession of poorly paid jobs – proofreading suburban train timetables and seedsmen’s catalogues, then working nights as a sub-editor on the Newcastle Daily Journal before switching to a day shift on the financial pages of the Evening Chronicle – but otherwise appears to have withdrawn into a shell.

more here.