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Agh, Agh, Yah, Boo

David Wheatley: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 4 December 2014

Midway: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Stephen Bann, 1964-69 
edited by Stephen Bann.
Wilmington Square, 426 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 905524 34 1
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... If we see him as a second-generation recruit to the ranks of mid-century modernist loners – David Jones, Basil Bunting, W.S. Graham and R.S. Thomas – Finlay’s continued evasion of a biographer acquires honourable precedents. Jones has yet to be biographised (though long-time devotee Tom Dilworth is on the ...

Images of Displeasure

Nicholas Spice, 22 May 1986

If not now, when? 
by Primo Levi, translated by William Weaver.
Joseph, 331 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 7181 2668 8
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The Afternoon Sun 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £8.95, March 1986, 0 297 78822 1
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August in July 
by Carlo Gebler.
Hamish Hamilton, 188 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 241 11787 9
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... personal recollections, letters, photographs, newspaper reports and other contemporary documents. David Pryce-Jones has gone to immense trouble to sustain this pretence, and he is clearly a connoisseur of the times and the culture he has set out to portray. The end effect has a certain virtuosity, but it is also ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... pointy teeth, all at once so English, so ordinary and so glamorous. And it’s four decades since David Bowie – wearing a lot of make-up and very few clothes, grinning through his pointy teeth, all at once so English, so ordinary and so glamorous – released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. ‘Five years, that’s all we’ve ...

Send no postcards, take no pictures

John Redmond, 21 May 1998

One Train 
by Kenneth Koch.
Carcanet, 74 pp., £7.95, March 1997, 9781857542691
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A World where News Travelled slowly 
by Lavinia Greenlaw.
Faber, 53 pp., £6.99, January 1997, 0 571 19160 6
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A Painted Field 
by Robin Robertson.
Picador, 98 pp., £6.99, February 1997, 0 330 35059 5
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... long and slow’, ‘the rain, immanent as stars,/now falling, falling slowly’. ‘In Memoriam David Jones’ has the title of an elegy but is entirely a poem about landscape. Jones probably made as much use of landscape as any poet has ever done, but Robertson’s poem has nothing of ...

Neil Corcoran confronts the new recklessness

Neil Corcoran, 28 September 1989

Manila Envelope 
by James Fenton.
28 Kayumanggi St, West Triangle Homes, Quezon City, Phillipines, 48 pp., £12, May 1989, 971 8647 01 5
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New Selected Poems 
by Richard Murphy.
Faber, 190 pp., £10.99, May 1989, 0 571 15482 4
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The Mirror Wall 
by Richard Murphy.
Bloodaxe, 61 pp., £10.95, May 1989, 9781852240929
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Selected Poems 
by Eavan Boland.
Carcanet, 96 pp., £5.95, May 1989, 0 85635 741 3
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The Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness 
by Selima Hill.
Chatto, 47 pp., £5.95, May 1989, 0 7011 3455 0
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... working in some less restrained modern poetic structures, such as those of MacDiarmid or Auden or David Jones, but not in Shakespearean sonnets: ‘unvermiculated’, ‘penetralian’, ‘exuriate’, ‘cineritious’, ‘intercrural’, ‘rupetral concentricity’, ‘cerebellic souterrain’. ‘The Price of Stone’ reeks of the ...

Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... any Scots from the indictment (though – unkindest cut – he does exonerate one Welshman, David Jones). Worse still for Crawford, Kenner announces, ‘There’s no longer an English literature’: by which he means that, whereas ‘talent has not been lacking’ – on the contrary, ‘good poets are dispersed round the land’ and each has a ...

Huw should be so lucky

Philip Purser, 16 August 1990

Sir Huge: The Life of Huw Wheldon 
by Paul Ferris.
Joseph, 307 pp., £18.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3464 8
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... of course, there were the young directors whom Wheldon fostered: John Schlesinger, Ken Russell, David Jones, Peter Newington, Humphrey Burton. They were encouraged, chivvied, and in Russell’s case restrained from some of his wilder excesses, all in the cause of demonstrating the nature of art by means of films which were themselves small instances of ...

Going Electric

Patrick McGuinness: J.H. Prynne, 7 September 2000

Poems 
by J.H. Prynne.
Bloodaxe/Folio/Fremantle Arts Centre, 440 pp., £25, March 2000, 1 85224 491 7
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Pearls that Were 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 28 pp., £4, March 1999, 1 900968 95 9
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Triodes 
by J.H. Prynne.
Barque, 42 pp., £4, December 1999, 9781903488010
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Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 
edited by Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain.
Wesleyan, 280 pp., $45, March 1999, 0 8195 2241 4
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... a roster of the British writers who have received the most international recognition: Bunting, David Jones, Hugh MacDiarmid and W.S. Graham are just a few of them. The work of these poets, and their successors in Other, is not inaccessible; it is ‘differently immediate’. Both the Prynne Poems and the anthology are easy enough to find ...

Super-Real

Peter Campbell, 18 March 1982

The Pre-Raphaelites 
by Christopher Wood.
Weidenfeld, 160 pp., £18, October 1981, 0 297 78007 7
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The Diary of Ford Madox Brown 
edited by Virginia Surtees.
Yale, 237 pp., £15, November 1981, 0 300 02743 5
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Eric Gill: Man of Flesh and Spirit 
by Malcolm Yorke.
Constable, 304 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 09 463740 7
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... first the Pre-Raphaelites were able to rouse both anger and admiration; a Soho sex shop with Burne-Jones posters as its sole window decoration suggests that whatever it was about their work that made people uneasy still tells. Pre-Raphaelite pictures can be memorable even when they are unlikeable: indeed, are sometimes most memorable when most ...

Speaking well

Christopher Ricks, 18 August 1983

Cyril Connolly: Journal and Memoir 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Collins, 304 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 333 32827 2
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J.B. Yeats: Letters to His Son W.B. Yeats and Others, 1869-1922 
edited with a memoir by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 296 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 436 59205 3
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... how carefully Lawrence refuses to recognise virtue in anyone but himself’), and his sponsor David Pryce-Jones now finds F.R. Leavis much the same, so it may be legitimate to cite the famous excoriation of Bloomsbury that was voiced by Lawrence and amplified by Leavis: ‘they talked endlessly, but endlessly – and ...

What are they after?

William Davies: How Could the Tories?, 8 March 2018

... range of Brexit options at a Tory Conference fringe event in October, the former Brexit minister David Jones concluded: ‘If necessary, as Churchill once said, very well then, alone.’ This is the sort of nostalgia Stuart Hall warned against as early as the 1970s, and which Peter Ammon, the outgoing German ambassador in London, identified recently ...

English Art and English Rubbish

Peter Campbell, 20 March 1986

C.R. Ashbee: Architect, Designer and Romantic Socialist 
by Alan Crawford.
Yale, 500 pp., £35, November 1985, 0 300 03467 9
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The Laughter and the Urn: The Life of Rex Whistler 
by Laurence Whistler.
Weidenfeld, 321 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 297 78603 2
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The Originality of Thomas Jones 
by Lawrence Gowing.
Thames and Hudson, 64 pp., £4.95, February 1986, 0 500 55017 4
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Art beyond the Gallery in Early 20th-century England 
by Richard Cork.
Yale, 332 pp., £40, April 1985, 0 300 03236 6
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Alfred Gilbert 
by Richard Dorment.
Yale, 350 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 300 03388 5
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... any longer cared to try for this sort of thing. Lawrence Gowing, writing of a painting by Thomas Jones who was in Rome a century and a half earlier, explains: ‘The normal way of gathering information about nature is in a drawing, but this oil sketch is nothing like a drawing. It is based not on line but on solid colour matched in value and hue to visual ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: I'll eat my modem, 10 August 2000

... launched at the Hay-on-Wye festival in May. It goes live some time this month. Laurence Middleton Jones, the company’s managing director, believes he is in a position to find ‘tomorrow’s writers today’, while at the same time describing electronic publishing as a ‘refreshing step into the past’. Now there’s an arresting paradox, although it ...

Playing Fields, Flanders Fields

Paul Delany, 21 January 1982

War Diary 1913-1917: Chronicle of Youth 
by Vera Brittain, edited by Alan Bishop.
Gollancz, 382 pp., £8.50, September 1981, 0 575 02888 2
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The English Poets of the First World War 
by John Lehmann.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £6.95, August 1981, 0 500 01256 3
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Voices from the Great War 
by Peter Vansittart.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 224 01915 5
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The Little Field-Marshal: Sir John French 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 427 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 224 01575 3
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... now admired as a kind of wartime reincarnation of Christopher Smart. Gurney trained as a musician, David Jones and Isaac Rosenberg as artists; they all served in the ranks and were excluded from the mainstream of literary life after the war – Rosenberg was dead, Gurney mad, Jones given to arcane pursuits. Once ...
... his poetry with the way the names of places and characters are put to work in the writings of David Jones in order to see how purely poetic, how non-programmatic, how free from the whiff of the scholar’s midnight oil, are the topographic and mythological elements in MacLean’s work. Jones often intended to ...

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