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'Local site and historical depth': Briggflatts, A Drunk Man, and British Modernist poetics of place

Rogers, Samuel


Sam Rogers
Senior Lecturer in English Literature


© The Author 2016. This article aims to present new understandings of how place, identity, and text are configured in British modernist poetry, particularly in the extended poem. Focusing chiefly on Basil Bunting's Briggflatts (1966), the discussion explores this poem's alignment of geography and history as sources of identity, noting a stark contrast with the kinds of rootlessness more readily associated with the Poundian long poem. Bunting can be seen to marshal a variety of spatio-temporal signifiers to convey a located identity, and it is demonstrated that Hugh MacDiarmid's A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926) enacts similar processes more explicitly. MacDiarmid and Bunting's historicized and located writing is briefly contrasted with Louis Zukofsky's depthless language, which carries conflicting spatial implications. William Carlos Williams's Paterson is then discussed as representing an American poetics of place that shows key commonalities with Bunting, but works with a distinct conception of history. Ultimately, it is argued that Bunting and MacDiarmid can be viewed as typifying a specifically British modernism, even whilst complicating and interrogating notions of Britishness. Their shared poetics of place are concerned with maintaining roots in the local site, but also asserting Northumbrian and Scottish nationalisms.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Jan 1, 2016
Journal English
Print ISSN 0013-8215
Electronic ISSN 1756-1124
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 65
Issue 251
Pages 332-362
APA6 Citation Rogers, S. (2016). 'Local site and historical depth': Briggflatts, A Drunk Man, and British Modernist poetics of place. English, 65(251), 332-362.
Keywords poetry, modernism, British identity, nationalism, Basil Bunting, Hugh MacDiarmid, William Carlos Williams, landscape
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in English following peer review. The version of record Rogers, S. (2016) “Local site and historical depth”: "Briggflatts", "A Drunk Man", and British modernist poetics of place. English, 65 (251). pp. 332-362 is available online at:


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