A brief introduction to David Jones.
David Jones is one of the finest modernist poets that we have. He was born in London in 1895 and was both a painter and a poet. His reputation as a poet rests largely on two works- 'In Parnethesis' and 'The Anathemata'. The former is a deeply moving account of Jones' experiences in the trenches in the First World War. Jones has described 'The Anathemata' as a collation of 'mixed data' and-
".... it is about one's own 'thing', which res is unavoidably part and parcel of the Christian res, as inherited by a person whose perceptions are totally conditioned and limited and dependent on his being indigenous to this island. In this it is necessarily insular; within which insularity there are the further conditions contingent upon his being a Londoner, of Welsh and English parentage, of Protestant upbringing, of Catholic subscription."
'In Parenthesis' won the prestigious Hawthornden Prize in 1938. In his preface to the 1961 edition, T S Eliot had no hesitation in including Jones along with Joyce, Pound and himself as a premier exponent of literary modernism. The poem is a mixture of prose and verse and is accompanied by Jones' notes. What stands out is the fundamental decency and humanity of those men as they made their way to the slaughter on the front line. This journey is described with such brilliance that the reader becomes immersed in the moment and almost forgets the horrors that await. The notes are equally remarkable and could make a poem in themselves.
W H Auden callled 'The Anathemata' "Very probably the finest long poem written in English in this century" and it is a remarkable work, packed full of the 'mixed data' referred to above and providing a dizzying tour of our cultural past. This too has notes provided by Jones and a long introduction which both explains and justifies the nature of its composition. The difficulty for the reader is in the unfamiliarity of some proper nouns and foreign phrases. The other problem is getting distracted by pursuing some reference further rather than getting on with reading the poem- I speak a someone recently guilty of this particular sin.
Both of these poems have been re-published this year (2010) by Faber. Earlier editions of 'In Parenthesis' contained Jones' sketch map of the front line, inexplicably this is not included in the latest edition (although Eliot's preface is).comments powered by Disqus