David Jones Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet
As a poet, visual artist and essayist, David Jones is one of the great Modernists. The variety of his gifts reminds us of Blake – though he is a better poet and a greater all-round artist. Jones was an extraordinary engraver, painter and creator of painted inscriptions, but he also belongs in the first rank of twentieth-century poets.
Though he was admired by some of the finest cultural figures of the twentieth century, David Jones is not known or celebrated in the way that Eliot, Beckett or Joyce have been. His work was occasionally as difficult as theirs, but it is just as rewarding – and more various. He is overlooked because his best writing is imbedded in two book-length prose-poems – In Parenthesis and The Anathemata, making it difficult to anthologise; the work is informed by his Catholic faith and so may feel unfashionable in this secular age; he was a shy, reclusive man, psychologically damaged by his time in the trenches, and loathed any kind of self-promotion. Mostly, though, he was a complete and original poet-artist – sui generis, impossible to pigeon-hole – and that has led to the neglect of David Jones: a true genius and the great lost Modernist.