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Photograph by Jonathan Williams

22 December 2005
Skywinding Farm
Scaly Mountain, North Carolina
 
 
STEVE, MY MAN!
 
I hope one and all have a grand time at the Daddy WaxWrath Fest.
 
We would love to be there—but you never know if Dick Cheney isn’t hiding in the shrubbery at the bottom of the driveway. Not far from here, over the Nantahala Mountains, Eric Rudolph hid out for over four years. What can you expect from poets?
 
I want you to offer a toast to Kenneth. It is by far the best I know. Its provenance is worth a brief telling.
 
One wet, dark, winter’s afternoon in the 1970s, Basil Bunting,  Tom Meyer, and I found ourselves in the small town of Langholm, on the River Esk, in the Borders of Scotland. Langholm is noted for being the home of one of the four or five best tweed mills in the world. And for being the birthplace of Hugh MacDiarmid, a great reprobate of a poet if there ever was one. Curiously, the town fathers had offered him “The Freedom of the Town,” a modest ceremony to allow a little extra drinking to take place. We had driven from Bellingham on the North Tyne to join in.
 
We found the great man at a table in the corner of the pub, surrounded by friendly mill workers, plying him with drams of Gren Fiddich single malt whisky and pints of bitter beer. MacDiarmid came to his feet when he saw Basil Bunting. “Now then, Mr. Bunting, may I propose a toast in your honour? It is from the ancient Gaelic Scots, in a new translation by me:
 
 
“MAY YOUR BOTTOM
NEVER BE USED
TO STRETCH A BANJO!”
 
Jonathan Williams

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