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This article is taken from PN Review 101, Volume 21 Number 3, January - February 1995.

The Persistence of David Jones Neil Corcoran

In his poetic sequence 'Implements in Their Places', published in 1977, W.S. Graham writes a kind of poetic autobiography in seventy-four separate parts: brief snatches or gobbets which act as parables, encodings, feints and sleights at the writing life. Given his wayward nature as a poet, it is hardly surprising that the only three poetic mentors he cites in the sequence are such an ill-consorted group: Tristan Corbière, Rudyard Kipling, and David Jones. The section, or 'implement', devoted to Jones plays with a metaphor derived from punning his name with that other, mythical and maritime 'Davy Jones':


I dive to knock on the rusted, tight
Haspt locker of David Jones.
Who looks out? A mixed company.
Kandinsky's luminous worms,
Shelley, Crane and Melville and all
The rest. Who knows? Maybe even Eliot.


The lines call attention to the dense allusiveness. of Jones's writing, but they also suggest a certain impenetrability: that 'tight/Haspt locker' will not give to any but the most concentrated attention. Yet the diving itself, the act of engagement and inquiry, is generously celebrated. Knocking on this rusted underwater locker does bring its reward, but only to the persistent reader.

I want to begin with this naming of Jones in the work of another poet since it is, after all, the major way a poet does survive: as Auden (another admirer of Jones) famously said in 'In Memory of W.B. Yeats', 'the ...


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