from Second Book of Odes: 6. What the Chairman Told Tom

By Basil Bunting 1900–1985 Basil Bunting
Poetry? It’s a hobby.   
I run model trains.
Mr Shaw there breeds pigeons.

It’s not work. You dont sweat.   
Nobody pays for it.   
You could advertise soap.

Art, that’s opera; or repertory—   
The Desert Song.   
Nancy was in the chorus.

But to ask for twelve pounds a week—   
married, aren’t you?—   
you’ve got a nerve.

How could I look a bus conductor   
in the face
if I paid you twelve pounds?

Who says it’s poetry, anyhow?   
My ten year old   
can do it and rhyme.

I get three thousand and expenses,   
a car, vouchers,
but I’m an accountant.

They do what I tell them,   
my company.   
What do you do?

Nasty little words, nasty long words,   
it’s unhealthy.
I want to wash when I meet a poet.

They’re Reds, addicts,   
all delinquents.
What you write is rot.

Mr Hines says so, and he’s a schoolteacher,   
he ought to know.
Go and find work.

Basil Bunting, “6. What the Chairman Told Tom” from Complete Poems, edited by Richard Caddel. Reprinted with the permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd.,

Source: Collected Poems (1968)

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Poet Basil Bunting 1900–1985



Subjects Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working, Activities, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire

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 Basil  Bunting


Basil Bunting was born in Scotswood-on-Tyne, Northumberland. Despite numerous years abroad in Italy, the Canary Islands, the United States, and current-day Iran, Bunting is known as a poet of Northern England and is closely associated with Northumberland, where he lived during the last years of his life. Bunting attended a Quaker school and was a conscientious objector during World War I. Arrested for his political views, . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working, Activities, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire



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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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