Reviews‘This is a beautifully conceived study that builds an argument around the images of "depth" and the "deep" to capture the experience of mystical meaning in poetic form. It is a consistently sophisticated, sharply written and attentive study that mirrors the depth of its title in its research, wisdom and erudition.’
Professor Emma Mason, Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick
This book explores numerous ways in which poets from across the twentieth century respond to ideas of depth and the deep. It argues that depth – encountered as a poetic, theological and theoretical concept – has offered a fruitful and creative focus for poets of varying degrees of faith allegiance, among them W.H. Auden, Ezra Pound, David Jones, Elizabeth Jennings, Stevie Smith, R.S. Thomas and Donald Davie. With religious language under challenge, and amidst social and cultural upheaval in post-war Britain, the deep offered a means of reconceptualising familiar distinctions between modernism and postmodernism, and between faith and doubt. The book therefore also questions some accounts of religious poetry in this period as being strongly coloured by the work of T.S. Eliot and often directed to the transcendent realm. By contrast, Hester Jones argues that the image of the deep enabled poets to locate the sacred immanently, for example, within sexuality of different kinds, within the experience of mental illness, within post-war trauma and within the abyss of nothingness. The deep surfaces within poetic renderings of prayer and specifically the revival of mystical apprehension, and within familiar geographical landscapes that also figure guilt or katabatic descent. It arises within the reaches of the sea, and within the landscape of the First World War, remembered at a distance after traumatic illness. Above all, it is voiced and discovered within psalmic language and dialogue.