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This review is taken from PN Review 7, Volume 5 Number 3, April - June 1979.

CRUCIAL PIECES WANTING René Hague, A Commentary on the Anathemata of David Jones (Skelton's Press) £7.50.

In his Six Epistles to Eva Hesse (1970), Donald Davie, considering the state of modern letters in his jaunty satirical mode, noted that: 'Pound and David Jones are planting/Glyphs with crucial pieces wanting.' Pound has, of course, had his explicators in plenty, including Davie himself. David Jones, as difficult, but possibly as rewarding a poet, has not yet had the full 'treatment'. In Parenthesis, the first long poem, has been more or less assimilated by modern criticism, though most frequently considered simply as a 'war book', despite Jones's explicit disclaimer of the description in his preface to the work. But The Anathemata, while known and occasionally genuflected to in studies of modern poetry, remains forbidding, largely uncharted territory. René Hague, a close friend of Jones for many years-and, incidentally, the printer of In Parenthesis-has now supplied a close, detailed and immensely informative exegetical commentary on this second major poem, 'the one', as Jones himself said, 'that really matters'.

Anyone who has seriously approached The Anathemata will know that the demands Jones makes of his readers are enormous. His vast erudition is apparent on every page of the poem, and he does, of course, annotate himself at length. It is worth remembering, I think, that the learning is that of an autodidact: there is, occasionally, attendant on this, a fussy pedanticism, and too insistent a riding of hobby horses, that might prove disconcerting for a reader new to Jones. Hague, in a way that Jones-who applauded poets as ...


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