A tale of searching princes, dying kings, and wise but tight-lipped dwarves, told in an archaic poetic form.
Welsh poet Hodgon (Small Learnings, Reflections, Visions & Meditations, 2015) offers a formal experiment in this volume. Its two poems, “Prelude” and “The Water of Life,” both use Spenserian stanzas (as used in Edmund Spenser’s 16th-century poem The Faerie Queen) to depict a fantasy world. However, the dense language of “Prelude,” coupled with its fiercely convoluted syntax, makes it difficult to read and understand. It’s a problem that continues in the much longer but more engaging “The Water of Life,” an old-fashioned tale of would-be kings setting off on a quest to discover their own spiritual worth. There’s a fine line between a poem that uses language and form in an original, creative, and daring way and one that’s virtually indecipherable, and these verses cross that line all too often. For example, lines such as “Stared she, transfixed across that plain / at fiery mount which thundered, roared, did spew / rocks red, clouds grey. Learn trust in dwarf, must she now knew,” demonstrate a scant regard for the sound of the language. Likewise, the tale they tell is interesting but frustrating because of needlessly inverted word orders and omitted articles. Occasionally, the poet succeeds in creating a feeling of otherness and antiquity in his verse: “Stood I in awe / and bowed then turned to face the crow on door / where I had entered here.” Ultimately, however, the burden of deciphering the language, combined with keeping track of many layers of narrative, will likely overwhelm many readers. Hodgon’s attempt to craft an epic fantasy poem is little short of heroic, but the poem itself demands more work than most people will be willing to devote to it.
An ambitious attempt at narrative poetry, but one that will challenge even the most dedicated readers.