A first reading, is it possible? I realize as I approach the poem how excited I am to open the package, find its surprise. This is what I expect when I read a poem. Poems are puzzles, and as I look upon this choicely narrow-looking “visual” stance, I want to jump in, but I stop myself: I do this a lot in my first close readings. Especially if the “look” of the poem immediately grabs me, as this one does: the title “And A Lie” suggests we are already in the middle of things, or at the end of a catalogue of “things.” And now a lie.
The black screen that greeted me when I opened the PennSound link seemed particularly appropriate for the First Reading assignment. No context, no introduction, no preamble; just a recording of Bunting in the form of a nondescript audio file that, after clicking play, inched its way across the black screen, its bar changing from grey to white in just under three minutes. The URL reveals that the recording dates back to 1977. The PennSound Bunting page yields little extra: “Blame Not My Lute” is but one of eleven Wyatt poems that Bunting read at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1977.
Sitting down to write my first “reading” of Basil Bunting’s 1977 performance of Sir Thomas Wyatt’ssixteenth-century poem “Blame Not My Lute,” I realize that I rarely read firstly anymore, properly speaking. That is, if I know I will be writing about a text of any kind, I research it before beginning. Were I to be writing an interpretation of the Bunting, for example, I would spend some time perusing relevant scholarship.
This essay by Andrea Brady is the first of five “first readings” we will publish — initial responses to the experience of hearing Basil Bunting cover Thomas Wyatt’s “Blame Not My Lute.” The recording is linked here and also available at PennSound’s Bunting page. — A.F., B.R. & C.W.
Basil Bunting’s voice is so familiar – the Briggflatts intonation, half-Santa Claus, half-priest, that hieratic tone which makes Ezra Pound reach for his kettle drum; those luxurious rolling rs.