“He placed himself in the order of signs” – a talk on the poet David Jones by Dr Mary Coghill

ECHA Podcast Artwork v2David Jones (1895-1974) was an artist and poet who contributed significantly to Catholic war literature. He was present at the front throughout most of the First World War only leaving the front when wounded, and then returning. His experiences marked his poetry and art for the rest of his life. His best known works are the very long poems In Parenthesis and the Anathemata neither of which are immediately easy to read although there is a narrative flow. Dr Coghill gives an overview of the theology of sacrifice as ‘sign’ as expressed by Fr Maurice de la Taille SJ, which informs David Jones’ writing. She believes his writing can only be properly understood in the light of this theology. Jones became a Catholic in 1919 around which time he met Eric Gill, the typographer, stone carver and artist. Jones subsequently became a member of the Guild of St Joseph & St Dominic – a group of Catholic artists and craftspeople living in community in Ditchling and later, in South Wales. Some time after this period Jones lived alone, convalescing from his war experiences which continued to haunt him, in Sidmouth, Devon, during which time In Parenthesis was published and he began to write the Anathemata. Dr Coghill examines what we know of his 5 years in Sidmouth (1935-40) and argues that this little known period of his life was significant, not least because it allowed his health to improve sufficiently for him to return to London, where he continue to live and work for the rest of his life.

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