Good Friday/ Holy Saturday, 2009
On St David’s Day some of us were fortunate enough to celebrate the first Sunday in Lent at Washington Cathedral, where the Dean preached an excellent sermon. As we were staying in Cathedral College in the Cathedral precincts, we had the opportunity of meeting the Dean, when he and some clergy joined us in the dining hall for Sunday lunch. I applauded him on his address: anyone who can convince me that ‘Lent is a gift’, is deserving of praise.
12.00noon Good Friday: the Archdeacon at St Paul’s Church, Sketty, led a 3 hour service of reflection and meditation on St Mark’s gospel, Ch. 16. The documentation of betrayal, trial and silence was followed by the rejection and scourging and ultimate replacing of Jesus by the guilty Bar-abbas – literally the figure of the son of a man – defines the ransom of the Divine Being that expiated mankind’s negative qualities and redeemed us, through His death and burial. For those who have Faith, this most solemn of days is the prelude, or the end of the beginning, of Hope: the underlying Easter message of the Man of Sorrows. To a David Jones devotee, the whole service was shot through with Jonesian poetic allusions and a number of visual works (‘Christus Sanctus at Capel-y-ffin’ ‘The Scourging of Christ’, ‘The Crucifixion’, ‘The Ancient Mariner”(vi), etc., where metaphor meets parody, and anamnesis and wonder are everywhere implied. By the time you receive this letter, the shame and horror will be over, and joy will abound.
A Happy Easter to you all.
Holy Saturday, 11 April: The conference, Faith, Art & Poetry in a Post-Christian Era, was extremely successful and Kathleen Henderson Staudt deserves our congratulations for organizing a splendid week-end of events:
On 27 Feb., at the Lauinger Library, University of Georgetown, we were welcomed by John Butchel who was responsible for curating a most informative exhibition of the Library’s holdings of David Jones material. Before being escorted to the show, Derek Shiel gave a splendid talk on his film, David Jones: Artist, Soldier, Poet (2007), and also informed us of his plans to make a sequel dealing with David Jones at Capel-y-ffin. This is something for all DJ fans to look forward to. After the screening of the film, there was an elegant reception and a chance to look at the exhibition. Regrettably, we really required more time than was available to us, and some decided to return to the Library on Sunday afternoon. However, a thick fall of snow on Saturday night & Sunday deterred even the most determined of us! But we did get the chance to meet David Jones’ old friend Michael Richey who had contributed substantial material to the DJ display.
On our return to the College, we had a brief discussion led by Kathleen Staudt and Esther de Waal on David Jones and his significance in this 21st century (secular) culture. Not than one would have realized this description of our era by the attendees: there was a frisson of collective goodness (by no means pious), which we encountered by the people engaging with the conversation. Although all were Christian, there was an elemental, underlying ethos of felicity, of being alive to the needs of others, which is seldom encountered among diverse groups these days.
We were engrossed by Prof William Blissett’s memories of ‘Seventy years with David Jones’ where he outlined his own career and scholarship, with wonderful anecdotes about his meetings with DJ and their correspondence. In a proper anamnesis address he covered publications, exhibitions, events and DJ Society meetings. In all, he made a brilliantly apposite start to the papers presented throughout Sat., 28 Feb. Dr Anne Price-Owen demonstrated DJ’s methods of ‘Materializing the Immaterial: the Word Made Image’, by examining DJ’s visual art in the context of his poetry. A number of the images she displayed were enhanced by Esther de Waal’s looped visual presentation of the hilly landscapes in ‘Encountering David Jones in the Welsh Borderlands’, where ‘the stone/ the fronded wood/ the fonted water’, were impressed on his consciousness. As if to underline these concepts, Rev Dr Calum MacFarlane drew parallels between DJ and Gerard Manley Hopkins with his topic ‘There is no Escape from Incarnation’, where he argued that both poets bewailed the increasing rule of technology in society which robs mankind of effective signs, thus devaluing our means of praising God. The artistic process, poesis, engages with the sacramental particularities that show forth in Jones’s work, like Hopkins’s inscapes. Negated by the subordination of ritual, the fundamental essence of signs is denied by shoddy materialism. Advancing this theme, Bradford Haas illustrated his study of ‘The Anathemata as Dynamic Object’ by showing images together with his own diagrams to demonstrate that this poem is ‘an effective showing forth [of ] the loved and known’, and convinced us that it is indeed a radiant object or sign that signifies itself. Dr Thomas Goldpaugh focused on The Grail Mass in an extraordinary elucidation of his title, ‘It’s a Great Robbery it is: David Jones and the Cost of Empire’. By dissecting the five Roman poems, he teased out their interrelationship with one another in a close investigation of the different characters and their musings and reflections on globalization at the cost of individuality and diversity, thus justifying the impact of the past on the present, on the future. In ‘Revisiting a Long Conversation with David Jones’s Poetry: “The Sagging end and Chapter’s Close?”’, Kathleen Henderson Staudt, in many ways welcomed herself back to a study of DJ after her years of ‘motherhood’, by interrogating DJ’s language. The ‘efficacious sign’ is the Latin Mass, which makes sense of everything, and which provides us with a language of how we make things. The artist is a creator, this is the first sign; making is a common activity, and making is sacramental because it uses material beyond itself. ‘A new thing with its own way of life’ is made, and this is a prayerful process. The finished work becomes a communication between people, and the sharing in the work invites the viewer into an understanding of the process, the prayer. And when one or two are gathered together … Well! Is there any more to be said?
Diary Dates: 21 April, Derek Shiel will present his Sculpted Sound in conjunction with the Estorick Collection of Italian Art & the Central School of Speech & Drama, Embassy Theatre, Eton Avenue, NW3 3HY. Box Office: 020 7722 8131.
Jeremy Hooker’s article on Elizabeth Haines will appear in the April/May 09 issue of Planet (Aberystwyth), no.194. ISSN: 0048-4288. Hooker’s essay on David Tress’s paintings is on the Resurgence website.
If you missed Planet 193, you may also want to order that too, where Christine Kinsey’s autobiographical article ‘A Place of Silent Belonging’, is worth reading.
Herbert Roese has published a biography on Phyllis Lawson, who was tutored by Joseph Herman. Enquiries to: CARECK, 16 Ogwen Drive, Cardiff, CF23 6LH
With our 2005 trip to N Wales in mind, Brenda Chamberlain, having lived on Bardsey Island, subsequently went to the Greek Island, Ydra, where she wrote & illustrated A Rope of Vines (Seren, 2008). L7.99, ISBN: 9781905762866.
Thomas Dilworth’s study of ‘The making of Trystan ac Essyllt’ will appear in the next issue of The Burlington Magazine. This article is a prelude to his talk at Kettle’s Yard, the next Society event being Icons and Images, which takes place on 22 June at Castle Street, Cambridge. There are 12 offers of presentations:
Rev Dr Christopher Armstrong: ‘Meditations on The Bride’
Prof William Blissett: ‘David Jones’s Window’
Prof Thomas Dilworth: ‘Painting in Love: The Lee Shore and Trystan ac Essyllt’
A.C. Everatt: ‘DavidJones: A Liturgical Poet’
Bradford Haas: tbc
Anna Johnson: tbc
Julie Johnston: ‘A Tour of Kettle’s Yard’
Dedwydd Jones: ‘Recording David Jones’
John Purkis: ‘David Jones & George Borrow’
Derek Shiel: tbc
Colin Simms: tbc
Paul Stanbridge: ‘David Jones & William Blake’
Colin Wilcockson: ‘David Jones and the Wasteland Motif’
The cost of the seminar cannot be estimated until we have confirmation of the number attending this event. Please complete the attached form and enclose #10.00 deposit per person to confirm your intentions of attending.
For those who require accommodation, there are 2 hotels (among many), that you might like to contact. Cambridge Lodge Hotel, 135, Huntingdon Rd, 01223 452833: rooms from L67.50. Travelodge Hotel 0871 9846101, from L28.00, per room.
The David Jones Society
KETTLE’S YARD SEMINAR: Icons & Images, 22 June 2009
I enclose a cheque for L10.00 pp.
Now, some more good news concerning David Jones. Most members will be familiar with his inscription ‘Pwy Yw R Gwr’(1956), and that it was not hung in the Carmelite Chapel for which it had been commissioned. Happily, the words will soon be installed in a chapel on the Gower Peninsula, at a small, circular, hand-built sanctuary by the sculptor, Philip Chatfield. A stone caver, Philip, who trained with Jonah Jones who was so impressed by his work that he gave Philip Eric Gill’s hammer! (Eric had given it to Jonah during his training at Gill’s studio.) Philip has been commissioned to build the chapel for the pilgrim centre at Nicholaston House, Penmaer, Gower. He is currently carving the lettering on a stone dado that flows with the internal perimeter of the Chapel. It is anticipated that this large sculpture will be consecrated in September.
The English translation of DJ’s inscription has been given to me ‘on a plate’ for this letter’s not quite final quotation:
Who is the man who wears the Crown
Holy God with wounds beneath His chest
Owing to the content of this newsletter there has been an emphasis on religion, especially Christianity, and I trust that our friends who do not subscribe to any religion, or those who are agnostic or atheist, may take comfort from another Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, whom David Jones admired:
And death shall have no more dominion
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon …
They shall have stars at elbow and foot …
Though lovers be lost, love shall not
And death shall have no dominion.
So, enjoy the season when ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower’, drives us on to better things.
Peace, blessings and all sorts of good things,
PS The Journal has been held up again by an article on DJ that I’ve just completed for Agenda Poetry magazine, and an essay shortly to be published on a local Glynneath artist, Ken Elias, and by preparing a paper for the Cathedral College Conference, and by the preparation of the Seminar in Cambridge. Very soon, I’ll get my priorities right and get back to completing the editing for the next DJJ.
NB ALL CONTRIBUTORS TO THE SEMINAR
There are no black-outs at Kettle’s Yard, so no projector for slides, powerpoint, etc. IF you wish to present images with your talk, then please send me a CD with your pictures scanned in at 300dpi, and I will do a print-run of them for the seminar. Each guest will have a presentation pack of images to accompany your talk.
Alternatively, send me a colour copy of your images, and I’ll make multiple copies to bring to the Seminar for you.