Basil Bunting was one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century. I had the absolute pleasure as a young art student (and lover of poetry) of hearing Basil read his poetic masterpiece Briggflatts in a small pub in Northumberland (UK) in 1979. I drove up to a small village in Northumberland from Sunderland, Tyne and Wear in my first car; a Morris 1100, which I had bought the week before for fifty pounds. On the way back to Sunderland after the reading, the car broke down in the middle of nowhere. Actually, it was not far from Hexham, although I didn’t know that at the time. I lay on the back seat of the car in the dark trying to sleep unsuccessfully until morning.
It was freezing cold. The wind was howling, the rain torrential and relentless. Early the next morning the sky cleared and the sun rose majestically over the surrounding hills. There is a morning light in the north east of England that exists only in that part of the world. It is a light that is meant to exist there and there alone. Basil Bunting new that morning light. He returned to it after many years of worldly travels. He understood the inspiration it gave him for what it was; that is, the genesis of humanity’s emotional and empirical understanding of enlightenment. Moments of realisation come upon us rarely and usually when we least expect them to happen. Whenever I take the time to read Basil Bunting’s masterpiece, I recall the rising sun with its morning rays rising over the Northumbrian hills.
The car had to be towed back to Sunderland and cost me another fifty quid!