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This article is taken from PN Review 269, Volume 49 Number 3, January - February 2023.

Blett August Kleinzahler
The voice is immediately familiar to me: direct, precise, intelligent, self-effacing, unembellished. Bunting avoided adjectives. He believed they bled nouns; likewise adverbs, verbs. He seldom used subordinate clauses or the passive tense. These same traits obtain in his poetry. In so far as he had a sense of humour in his writing (he laughed easily in life) it tended to be Swiftian and caustic, occasionally bawdy; he enjoyed limericks. It is remarkable how closely the conversational prose of his letters resembles his speech. He spoke slowly, carefully enunciating every vowel and syllable, seeming to take real relish in the sonorous qualities of the Northumbrian/Geordie/Tyneside burr, with its rolled r’s, broad vowel sounds (water pronounced as watter) and occasional glottal reinforcement of the letter p, and to lesser extent k and t when sandwiched between vowels. Bunting always maintained that Wordsworth’s poetry, if pronounced in other than the Northumbrian way, i.e. the upper-middle-class Oxbridge accent, was hopelessly mauled. He derisively, and collectively, referred to southern English, at least middle-class English, as southrons. Bunting had the north-easterner’s historical antipathy to the south, dating back at least to the Age of Elizabeth, probably a good deal further. Listen to his Wordsworth recordings if you can find them. Ezra Pound appropriated Bunting’s voice when reading his own poetry, theatricalizing it somewhat. Bunting surely must have been startled the first time he heard Pound recite his own poetry in this fashion, though he seems not to have been dismayed, and perhaps was even flattered.

One of the principal reasons Bunting’s letters ...

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