Published on Academy of American Poets (

What the Chairman Told Tom

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.


From Complete Poems by Basil Bunting, published by Bloodaxe Books (2000). Copyright © 1985 by the estate of Basil Bunting. Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books. All rights reserved.


Basil Bunting

Born March 1, 1900, in Scotswood-on-Tyne, Northumberland, to a family of Quakers, poet Basil Bunting first attended Ackworth School in Yorkshire and Leighton Park School in Berkshire until the age of eighteen. Bunting's Quaker education informed a strong opposition to World War I, and, after high school, Bunting was arrested for being a conscientious objector to the war. For this, he was imprisoned at Wormwood Scrubs and Winchester until 1920. 

Date Published: 1985-01-01

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