Bunting’s Persia

By Patrick Dunagan

Bunting's_PersiaBasil Bunting often goes unacknowledged as a major contributing innovator of Modern poetry in English. Rather unfortunately — as Bunting had no love of Academics — the lapse in knowledge of his work appears more prevalent among younger practicing poets than among scholars. His meticulously chiseled verse excels and pushes the Pound-Eliot line of Modernism beyond established confines. His work broadens our attention to the sounds of language in poetry through the concise palette of his rarefied workman’s ear.

Bunting went out of his way to meet Pound over a friendly game of chess in a Parisian coffee shop, and under Pound’s encouragement, taught himself to read the Persian language, Farsi, using a French translation of the poet Ferdowsi. Later, while living in Iran, Bunting’s knowledge of the language and culture grew along with his appreciation for the people there. His attraction to the literature and culture of Persia — roughly the borders of modern Iran, though historically covering a much broader swath of the Middle-East — played a central part in Bunting’s poetic life. He lived and worked as a journalist (and likely a British spy for some time) in Tehran, where he married a much younger Iranian woman.

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