I'm reading over writing I did 10 years and I'm amazed on what still seems relevant. It reminds me of some Ernest Hemingway (attrib) advice (commented on here and book here), don't compete with living writers. It's the dead ones that matter.
My neighbour and friend at Harvard, who was training to be a priest (and now is a wonderful priest - what makes an impact in Church work today - must be a whole other series of thoughts) gave me a book on David Jones.
Jones’ poems In Parenthesis and Anathemata are great works I come back to time and again (poetry foundation page here). They are not easy first reading but very rewarding.
The way the works grow on me...
(or am I growing up? cf. Mark Twain (attrib) - "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
...over time intrigues me in a world of seemingly ever faster, more connected instant media.
[As an aside, Mark Zuckerberg in a remarkable letter that alters Facebook's fundamental purpose (at least articulated by him) does acknowledge some of these factors about connection and echo chambers. ]
David Jones was also a brilliant visual artist.
He is known as a painter-poet.
From In Parenthesis, part 7
And to Private Ball it came as if a rigid beam of great weight
flailed about his calves, caught from behind by ballista-baulk
let fly or aft-beam slewed to clout gunnel-walker
below below below.
When golden vanities make about,
you’ve got no legs to stand on.
He thought it disproportionate in its violence considering
the fragility of us.
The warm fluid percolates between his toes and his left boot
fills, as when you tread in a puddle–he crawled away in the
David Jones was born in south-east London to a Welsh father and a London-born mother. As his father had been discouraged from speaking Welsh as a child, David Jones did not speak the language. Yet Wales, Welsh and Welsh mythology would remain a significant component artistic influence.
He studied at Camberwell College of Arts, where his work was described as ‘leaving everything out except the magic.’ He enlisted at the beginning of World War One, serving from 1915 to 1918. He served longer on the Western Front than any other major war poet in the UK. This shaped his whole life.
He had traumatic breakdowns through out his life. Certain breakdowns would then make turning points in his artistic practice.
Jones also made beautiful type and engravings and post-war David Jones became a Roman Catholic. His Christianity would become increasingly important in his art. Post war, he came under the influence of Eric Gill, a religious artist.
TS Elliot and other poets of the period considered Jones work important.I believe if you compare In Parenthesis and Anathemata to Elliot's work you can see why.It must be someone's PhD thesis or more.
More recently In Parenthesis was turned into an opera by Iain Bell and WNO with Librettists Emma Jenkins and David Antrobus (I'm not jealous, honest). It has also been a recording made a while back at the BBC.