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David Jones, Poet and Painter : Tom Durham
2nd May 2018 at 2:00 pm - 24th May 2018 at 4:00 pm
At our May meeting, Tom Durham, an actor who loves communicating poetry, gave us an interesting presentation on the poet, artist and soldier David Jones (1895-1974). Tom had first met him as a boy when Jones had an exhibition at the Tate Gallery but did not realise until many years later that he was David Jones , the author of In Parenthesis.
He began with his own poetic tribute to David Jones from his work Lodgings: ARecollection for the Sake of David Jones. He was a complex artist, working in water colours and the written word. He was concerned with religious questions of incarnation and crucifixion and had a belief in the calming, consoling and healing power of ‘the feminine’.
We heard an extract from Rite and Fore-Time (The Anathemata,1952)) about the earliest “humans” akin to Boxgrove Man/Woman and the anatomy of Western Culture.
Jones was a bit of a recluse and lived in succession of single rooms. He converted to Catholicism in 1921 and worked with the artist Eric Gill. He attended Camberwell School of Art and Westminster School of Art.
For a time he was engaged to Eric Gill’s daughter but this relationship broke down. Prudence Pelham the daughter of Lady Chichester helped David Jones fine tune In Parenthesis, one of his best known narrative works based on his wartime experiences in the trenches of WW1. This work was highly regarded by T.S Eliot who wrote the introduction. In this work he pays tribute to the dead soldiers of German, English and Welsh descent. Tom shared an extract from this which refers to the Queen of the Woods (the moon) lighting the faces of dead soldiers. Tom also gave us a recitation from Night March to the Sommefrom In Parenthesis.
We also heard from the work Balaam and his Ass – a Story from the Book of Numbers in which the Female Ass perceives a more spiritual dimension to life than the mercenary professional male prophet. This work seems to anticipate the coming crisis of WW11 and evokes sympathy with animals and muses on why the animals cannot revolt and get rid of the war mongers and dictators. It is also a lament for Passendale. The work seems to anticipate Animal Farm but was not published in his lifetime.
His wartime experiences are reflected in his written work and probably contributed to his health problems. He had two nervous breakdowns in 1932 and 1947.
Jones’s work was featured in a recent (2015-16) exhibition at the Pallant Gallery (David Jones: Vision and Memory) and also in the BBC War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme, which was broadcast on BBC TV, with a narration by Michael Sheen.
Tom impressed us with his enthusiasm for his subject and his amazing memorization of long passages from the works of David Jones. It was a fine introduction for those of us new to his work.