An eighth collection from Bidgood, an English-born writer who has lived in Wales for over three decades. Reading this slim volume, it’s not hard to see the attraction for a poet of Wales: an author of books of local history, Bidgood is intoxicated by both the dark and brooding mythos of the Welsh countryside and its tongue-bending, pungent names. Appropriately, one of her running themes is the often bloody history buried out of sight and out of memory in the rugged Welsh hills. She begins with a cycle of five brief poems that describe and invoke precisely those history-laden places so abundant in her adopted country. No surprise, then, that Bidgood has an apt ear and great fondness for the archaic word, the old occupational title (“a fathomer”), and the unfamiliar, almost comical verb. Her best poems combine those strengths. But many of them fall back on tired conceits, bordering on the cliché. Thus, in “White Castle,” the battered battlements of the title structure now serve as a place for children to play, oblivious to the real violence and drama that once took place there. The tree-felling machinery of “Felling-Machines” is personified as monstrous, the trees that are its victims “human, doomed.”
Muted, genteel sentimentality, well-intentioned but nonetheless ineffectual.