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How important is the English oral traditions to contemporary poetry? Discuss with reference to Basil Bunting’s work

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Introduction

How important is the English oral traditions to contemporary poetry. Discuss with reference to Basil Bunting's work. In 1978 Basil Bunting wrote that 'poetry must be read aloud' (Bunting 1978: 4-5). In this essay I will look at how far the literary oral traditions of England, and in particular Northern England, affected the poetry of Basil Bunting. I will first study what these traditions are. Then I will proceed by seeing how they appear to have influenced Bunting by studying the rhyme schemes, word usage and other literary forms of Buntings poetry. For this essay I will primarily concentrate on Briggflatts because the main character is Bloodaxe, an Anglo-Saxon lord and king. So it is likely that Bunting was particularly aware of old oral traditions in this poem. I will decide through this essay whether it is important to read Bunting's poetry aloud and so conclude whether oral tradition was important to Bunting and, by extension, contemporary poetry. What are the oral traditions that preceded the contemporary poets? 'The first English literature was passed down orally' (History of English Language Notes 449-1066). ...read more.

Middle

This gives the poem a more sombre feeling as the 's' becomes drawn out and is a prolonged sound as opposed to letters such as 't' and 'p.' Therefore, this slows down the speech of the reader and the poem begins to form moods as you read. Because reading aloud is so obviously important to this point I feel that this supports the view that Bunting found the oral traditions of England important. Another literary technique which was well used by Old English poets was the caesura pause. This pause occurs in every line of Old English poetry I have ever seen. It adds, to the oral rendition of the poem, a melodic, metred tone even when the lines are of different lengths. Take for example The Battle of Maldon: Byrhtno� ma�elode, bord hafenode, Wand wacne aesc, wordum maelde, Yrre and anraed agaef him andsware: (244) Bunting also uses this technique for the same reasons as Old English poets. It gives his poetry more harmony and melody. For instance: Who sang, sea takes, Brawn brine, bone grit. ...read more.

Conclusion

This technique is one that was used in the ballads and songs of the North. The area where Bunting grew up. The results of this technique are similar to those of alliteration in that it draws attention to certain words within the sentence. It also gives an overall symmetry and rhyme to sentences that do not rhyme. The fact that Bunting integrated this oral tradition into his own work shows that tradition was important to him. However, Bunting adds his own musical qualities to the poem as well as the traditional techniques. I have already explored his use of pauses and the theme of silence but he also uses clashing lines alongside harmonised ones: My quilt a litter of husks, I prosper Lying low, little concerned. My eyes sharpen When I blink. (73) These lines alert the reader, when read aloud, and draw attention to the rhythm that is momentarily interrupted. Yet, paradoxically these clashes continue the rhythm and harmony much like a minor note added to a major key piece. I believe that while this is not in following with oral traditions it is a contemporary extension of that tradition and will go unnoticed should the poem be read in silence. ...read more.

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