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Durham University

Basil Bunting Poetry Centre

Ric Caddel Obituary


With heartfelt regret, the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre records the premature death of Richard Caddel, from leukaemia on 1 April 2003, gives thanks for his many gifts, and rejoices in the international recognition they received before his life was cut short. Even after his retirement from Durham University in 2000 because of ill-health, "Ric" continued to be vital to the Bunting Centre and its ongoing activities; his humour, insight and unassuming presence are still warmly felt.

Poet, editor, publisher and librarian, Richard Caddel was a writer dedicated to "the physical impact of words joined together". While on the staff of Durham University Library, he initiated Colpitts Poetry, created Pig Press with his wife Ann and co-founded the Basil Bunting Poetry Archive with Diana Collecott in 1987, Richard's personal relationship with the Bunting family as well as his recovery of, and cooperation with, Bunting's associates and their heirs were crucial to the development of this world class collection, much of it achieved in collaboration with Beth Rainey, the tireless former keeper of Durham's Special Collections.

Richard Caddel was in close touch with Bunting scholars and translators worldwide, both during and after the period of the Mountjoy Fellowship. Thanks to the commitment of Judith Draycott, this fellowship was endowed by English Estates North to foster research in the archive and creativity in "a live tradition". The many critics, poets and students who have spent time Durham over the past two decades found in Richard a rich source of knowledge and encouragement.

Richard Caddel's editorial energies are evident in the publications of the Bunting Archive, as well as in Sharp Study and Long Toil, the special Bunting issue of Durham University Journal which appeared in 1995 and is still in print. His sound judgement and meticulous scholarship were responsible for the Uncollected Poems of Basil Bunting (1991), now incorporated in the Complete Poems of Basil Bunting (1994, 2000), which refreshes our understanding of the whole oeuvre. His own sense of place is apparent in Basil Bunting: a Northern Life, researched and written with Anthony Flowers (1997).

An aficionado of contemporary writing in the USA and an expert on British poetry from the Welsh bards, through John Clare, to the present day, Richard Caddel was committed to contemporary work outside the mainstream, and co-edited with Peter Quartermain the anthology Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 (1999). A profound and musical poet, Richard Caddel gave readings and lectures worldwide and was translated into a number of modern languages, including Czech and Japanese. His published work includes the lyrical Larksong Signal (1997) and For the Fallen (2000), an eloquent elegy for his son Tom who died by a tragic accident in 1995.

Richard Caddel's selected poems of thirty years, Magpie Words, came out in 2002 from West House Books, which also published his posthumous volume, Writing in the Dark, in 2003. In the autumn of that year, the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre sponsored a poetry reading at the Birmingham conference of the international Modernist Studies Association in his honour, while Colpitts Poetry held a well-attended celebration of his life and work at Durham University's Music School to coincide with the appearance of Writing in the Dark: the last testimony of what one reader praised as "an attentive heart".

Rest notes
a small
for breath
a short
time to
a cold
on frost

"Songs in Remission", Writing in the Dark 41

The following links offer further information on Richard Caddel and his work:
Obituary in the Guardian (18 April 2003) by Paul Taylor
Obituary in the Independent (11 April 2003) by Harry Gilonis
Special issue of Jacket Magazine (number 22, May 2003), dedicated to Richard Caddel, guest edited by Peter Quartermain, with list of tributes and obituaries
Entry on website of British Experimental Poetry Centre, Southampton University
Publishers of Caddel's Magpie Words and Writing in the Dark: [West House Books]