The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Basil Bunting’

Weltschmerz Is an Egg Yolk, and Other News

August 3, 2016 | by

Gudetama, depressed.

  • One of many reasons that Japan is culturally superior to the U.S.: its citizens are presently in the thrall of an existentially despairing egg yolk. “Meet Gudetama, the anthropomorphic embodiment of severe depression. Gudetama is a cartoon egg yolk that feels existence is almost unbearable. It shivers with sadness. It clings to a strip of bacon as a security blanket. Rather than engage in society, it jams its face into an eggshell and mutters the words, ‘Cold world. What can we do about it?’ … How did a sad little egg win so many Japanese hearts? Why did a billion-dollar corporation decide to market a character embodying depression? And what does Gudetama’s appeal reveal about Japan’s culture?”
  • Then, on the other hand, there are teens. As if to take a perverse pride in the fact that nothing is sacred in this world, that no norm can go unchallenged, today’s teens have decided they no longer enjoy sex. “Noah Patterson, eighteen, likes to sit in front of several screens simultaneously: a work project, a YouTube clip, a video game. To shut it all down for a date or even a one-night stand seems like a waste. ‘For an average date, you’re going to spend at least two hours, and in that two hours I won’t be doing something I enjoy,’ he said … He has never had sex, although he likes porn. ‘I’d rather be watching YouTube videos and making money.’ Sex, he said, is ‘not going to be something people ask you for on your résumé.’ ”

Briggflatts, Bibliophagy, and Other News

June 22, 2016 | by

"You'll eat your words," God said, and lo, Ezekiel did. (Source

“You’ll eat your words,” God told Ezekiel, and lo, Biblical literalism was born. Image via Gallica.

  • If your daily commute this past year was anything like mine, then your daily commute was nothing like Basil Bunting’s in 1965. That was the year Bunting composed Briggflatts, his magnum opus, while riding the train to and from his day job as a newspaper subeditor. Bunting started the poem not long after Tom Pickard showed up at his door and told him, “I heard you were the greatest living poet.” (At the time, Bunting had not published anything in thirteen years; he later said he wrote Briggflatts “to show the boy how it was done.”) The result, first published fifty years ago, in Poetry, was, as August Kleinzahler has it, “a very particular Northumbrian British flowering of all that Pound and Eliot had earlier achieved in their modernist project, while at the same time more emotionally freighted, more ‘human’ than The Cantos or The Waste Land.” 
  • Ask my sixteen-month-old whether books ought to be devoured or digested and he’ll be quick to demonstrate, locking jaws on his favorite compendium of fire-truck photos, that he’s a “both and” kind of guy. In the eighteenth century, it seems, the question was merely metaphorical: “Educational manuals, essays and advice books pitted ‘digestion’ against ‘devouring’ in order to slow down the increasingly fast-paced reading habits of their modern world, realigning reading with the process of character formation. ‘Readers may cram themselves in vain with intellectual Food … for want of digesting it by proper Reflections,’ cautioned Isaac Watts in The Improvement of the Mind (1741). This distinction allowed writers to position ‘digestive’ reading as an ethical ideal, while condemning ‘devouring’ as unthoughtful and hedonistic.”
  • I stopped watching Game of Thrones when I realized that the show existed only to supply grist for Sarah Larson’s ecstatic mill. Why watch the rough draft when you can go straight to the finished objet? This week’s episode pushed her to peak form: “A snow begins to fall, and Sansa, fittingly, gets the last word with Ramsay, who’s tied up in a dungeon, with the vibe of Hannibal Lecter. ‘Hello, Sansa,’ he whispers. She gives him a good cold speech and then reminds him that he hasn’t fed his dogs. Ah, the old bark-and-chew. Never have I been so happy to see someone’s face pounded in, then eaten off by his own dogs. Sansa watches calmly, then smiles. You’ve come a long way, baby. Or she’s become a monster, and so have I.”
  • In March, the New York Times held a three-day conference in Qatar, which featured Jeff Koons, Marina Abramovic, and Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., the newspaper’s publisher and chairman. The conference addressed such themes as “What is the civic responsibility of the collector in the digital age?” and “How can true, untrammelled, artistic creativity be harnessed in the service of social and economic wellbeing?” It did not, apparently, worry much about what “true, untrammelled, artistic creativity” might mean in a country that imprisoned a poet, Mohammed al-Ajami, for writing poems that criticized Qatar’s autocratic emir: “The inflammatory issues of the region’s present—censorship, labor rights, dynastic succession—are left unaddressed in the Times’s plenary sessions. Rather, the proceedings circulate around the placid lexicon of TED Talks, platitudes of futurism veering into the apolitical and commercial. But in Qatar, you cannot separate politics from art, in large part because the emir’s family is the patron of the arts.” 

Staff Picks: ‘Bunting’s Persia,’ Dickinson’s Manuscripts

February 17, 2012 | by

In you’re in the New York area, tomorrow is the last day to see the unmissable exhibition of rare Emily Dickinson manuscripts and letters at Poets House. This is the first time much of this material has been on view; who knows when it will be again. It’s also worth making the trip to see poet and artist Jen Bervin’s striking quilts, which are stitched according to the symbols and corresponding variant words in Dickinson’s fascicles. —Nicole Rudick

In the early 1930s, the young English poet Basil Bunting taught himself Farsi with a dictionary and a copy of the Iranian national epic, the Shahnameh, given to him by Ezra Pound. (“It’s an easy language,” Bunting explained, “if it’s only for reading you want it.”) The translations he made are collected in Bunting’s Persia, a slim book, including excerpts from the Shahnameh and lyrics like this one by Sa’di:

Without you I've not slept, not once in the garden
nor cared much whether I slept on holly or flock,
lonely to death between one breath and the next
only to meet you, hear you, only to touch ...

I read it on Valentine’s Day. —Lorin Stein

This week I found myself fascinated by the New York City Graffiti & Street Art Project, an experiment by the library of Lewis & Clark college that charts the most interesting examples of street art across the city, sorted by neighborhood, media type, subject, and more. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I just stumbled upon this breezy interview with cartoonist Lee Lorenz from last year. Part of The Comics Journals “Know Your New Yorker Cartoonist” column, the conversation is an endearing remembrance of a life in pictures, with the added pleasure of some insider gossip. —Josh Anderson

Try Pär Lagerkvist’s The Dwarf for a healthy dose of fiery medieval homuncular misanthropy. Great reading material for long, slow queues, crowded subway rides where even the conductor is exasperated, and angry times in general. —Emma del Valle

Seventeenth-century love letters, Latin bibles, a Shelley manuscript, and English children’s stories: I’ve suddenly discovered the Morgan Library’s blog. —D.F.M.

It’s official: I have an extreme case of Linsanity. —Natalie Jacoby