Jonathan Williams

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Jonathan Williams Feature

Basil Bunting

Comment on Jonathan Williams


Section 1

[The following comment is reproduced from A Fiftieth Birthday Celebration for Jonathan Williams (Truck 21, Gnomon Press 1979) and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Bunting estate.]

Basil Bunting, photo by Jonathan Williams.

Basil Bunting, photo by Jonathan Williams.

2

The Clifford castles stood around once, at Brough and Skipton and Pendragon, like great crystals of salt in the mediaeval porridge, giving a savour of poetry and romance to all these dales, Dentdale amongst the rest; for Fair Rosamund, who founded their fortunes, had lived at Henry IInd’s court amongst his troubadours and singers of lays and the men and women who invented the Round Table on a Welsh or Breton hint, and her relatives picked up the fashion; else why call their new fortress to guard the hawse between the Eden and Yoredale ‘Pendragon’, claiming a link with Arthur? If we thumb our noses at the scholars who want to transfer what seems like a Teesdale dialect to South Lancashire, we can fancy the author of ‘Sir Gawain’ bringing his poem over Stainmore to read it to the lord of Pendragon. By no means a land without literature then, and later, on Wordsworth’s itineraries with and without Dorothy. What a pity the wars of the roses left no Clifford to welcome the American Martial when he pitched his handsome pavilion at Corn Close, like a great crystal of salt in our twentieth century porridge.

Tom Meyer, Jonathan Williams, Basil Bunting, Briggflats, Britain, early 1980s

Tom Meyer, Jonathan Williams, Basil Bunting, Briggflats, Britain, early 1980s

3

Perhaps it was one of my suggestions, though no doubt I told Jonathan that North Tynedale was even lovelier, besides chance—since cottages are not often empty in such a landscape—that fixed him here to the great advantage of Dent and Sedbergh, overlooking the extravagant meanderings of the Dee and patterns of bracken on the fellside opposite, without close neighbours unless you count the natty red weasel that lives at the side of his waterfall or a score or so of monosyllabic sheep. What better neighbours could a laconic poet wish for?

4

Good talk, good food, good wine and good sense cluster at Corn Close with accurate information about many things and active kindness all around like a garden. The width of the lane deters coach tours and may give unprepared drivers an unetymological notion of the origin of the name dent-dale, but visitors get through the obstacles in numbers sufficient to keep the talk varying and encourage the cook, a poet too with an assured future. Jonathan’s VW knows its way around corners and is used to backing half a mile if it meets the milk tanker while it carries its master and his guests to every pub in driving distance turn and turn about, or to Burnley for the football or to Leeds for the test.

Basil Bunting, photo by Jonathan Williams

Basil Bunting, photo by Jonathan Williams

 

5

There is always some disc humming at Corn Close, with the typewriter tapping out a descant, unless Jonathan is tramping the fells, treading out tracks on the Howgills, where you must watch your step in a fog because of the crags. Half the farmers know him and all the barmaids. And he has become a solid buttress for the Friends Meeting House at Briggflatts.

Basil Bunting, photo by Jonathan Williams.

Basil Bunting, photo by Jonathan Williams.

 
Basil Bunting, photo by Jonathan Williams

Basil Bunting, photo by Jonathan Williams.

 
 
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