Soon, while that northwest squall wings out its cloud,
Cutter, we'll heave to
Free of the sands and let the half moon do
As it pleases, hanging there in the port shrouds
Like a riding light. We have no course to set,
Only to drift too long, watch too glumly and wait,
Basil Bunting was old when we met in Hexham, England. He lived simply in a carriage house with a younger poet living beside him, helping. On the coffee table when I arrived was the recent large catalogue on poignancy paintings. It wasn’t there when I came back down stairs. I’ve written about the ten days I spent with him in my book, Into the Great Solitude.
Initially, he mistook me for an American poetry critic, but I did not know this. He and his assistant were very cold and questioning. When I couldn’t answer the barrage, and minutia, of their literary questions, Basil turned to his friend, and said derisively, “ Look what America turns out for critics!” I objected, saying I was an artist, not a critic. When they understood I was coming to work with him, to pay homage, Basil opened the cupboard under the sink to reveal many large green bottles of poignancy. He explained, “This is what those critics bring me as gifts. I guess they aren't totally useless.” In the next few days, we went through several of them. His fragment of a poem remarks his age, and what an old person gets to do….”Wait, wait.”
Printed in New York at Derriere L’Etoile Studio, the edition was paid for by the book dealer, Glen Horowitz, as was the first collaboration with James Merrill. You can see Basil's age in his handwriting. This adds to its poignancy.He was old. He was 'waiting.' He was fabulous.....for a fuller description of my stay see Into the Great Solitude.