Edgar Alan Jones
The Knight of the White Sun of Avalon
Ettrick Forest Press £7.95
Review by Catherine Woodward
.....It’s always special when we come across something wonderful and unexpected, in this case something that seems so old and is yet so refreshingly new and relevant.
.....The idea of relating the meditations of a fictional character of a time largely lost to contemporary literature, put me in mind of George Szirtes’ poem Metro, where the speaker disappears through the layers of history to recover the lost voice of his mother. Edgar Alan Jones, in the first page of his book, announces doing something similar. The oddity of this arises however, in that the Knight, being a changeable and reconstructable fiction, was never lost in the first place. So rather than rediscovering the essence of a man or a time, or lifting an individual from a generalised history, in the act of writing Jones has layered imaginings over others. He has by nature of the work taken personal conceptions of Lancelot, Guinevere, all of medieval myth and found a voice for it, passed on through centuries and finally mediated through his own, the past becoming a medium to explore the present and vice versa. Jones’ Knight of the White Sun of Avalon simultaneously obliterates and recreates the perception of medieval heroism/faith/romance etc, losing it in time and entrenching the image of the Knight further and further into the imaginary. Fabulous.
.....What Jones has done is to create a romantic, fascinating and unsettling version of the world, scattered with gods and creation myths, which through the very structure of the poems, challenges contemporary thought and at once seems to defy interpretation and criticism.
.....The collection itself appears disconnected to the quest of the Knight, touring instead through peripheral and implied regions of feeling, populated with strange animals and even stranger women. Jones’ method here accomplishes a suspicious ‘timlessness’ and a measured sparseness which conducts an uncomfortable silence around his subjects, heavy with meaning and barely there. This generates a persistent aura of tense expectancy; the poems become prophetic, making the most innocent unnerving ‘A mackerel caught by an apostle/in the dead of night…’
.....Something similarly wonderful is Jones’ faith to a pagan vernacular of knights and ladies, elves and spirits, that strains Christian faith against the love affair with myth. Fantastic strings of ‘the’s and ‘of’s connect the Knight’s world by place and story (‘The Knight of the Terracotta Realm’ or ‘The Red Angel of the Morn’). The simplicity of the reliance upon and the love of these meanings brings to our attention a marvellous faith in myth, apparent certainties and our relationships to the world around us that are largely forgotten. Even when hopping from one connection to the other Jones allows us to soar syntactically over the landscape he has created, shifting subjects and attentions in a demonstration of how one relationship flows imperturbably into another. Lancelot’s Rose is a lovely example.
.....Just as lovely and equally sad are the contradictions that this romantic ideology involves. While the language charges heroically back to a time of trust in itself and celebration of truth and beauty, the structure that all of it is based upon is myth, certainty based on uncertainty. There is a terribly thin line built here (especially were love must be expressed) between innocence and disillusionment, and the reader must choose between them. This, fascinating but sad, seems to be the result of bringing this sort of work to a modern thinking audience, yet I am very glad that somebody has, for it is surely invaluable.
.....The Knight of the White Sun… is a thin but incredibly rich volume, and the result of a daunting concept handled tenderly and beautifully.
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