Ruth Bidgood Obituary
Ruth Bidgood Obituary
Amid the current tumult in Europe, Wales has quietly lost one of its finest poets: Ruth Bidgood died on 4 March, just a few months short of her centenary. Her passing should not go unremarked.
The daughter of a vicar, Ruth was born near Seven Sisters in the Neath Valley, educated in Port Talbot and Oxford, served in the WRNS as a coder in Alexandria during the war, and afterwards worked in London for Chambers Encyclopaedia. But after this geographically varied life she became known as a poet of a single place, moving from Surrey to Abergwesyn during the Sixties she lived the rest of her long life there, and in nearby Beulah and finally Rhayader. From her corrugated iron-roofed home she maintained a life of writing, mostly about the landscape around her – Wales’ ‘green desert’ – its history and its people. The result was a stunning history of Abergwesyn, Parishes of the Buzzard, and articles in Transaction of the Radnorshire Society which reflected her capacious mind and learning. And fifteen collections of poetry, including no less than three Selecteds, and the Roland Mathias Prize-winning Time Being (2009), perhaps her finest book, published when she was 87.
As reviewers and critics over the years have often noted, Ruth’s poetry was not flashy or even fashionable. Perhaps her subject matter excluded those things. Perhaps her role as a celebrator and a remembrancer did too. It was, however, none the worse for that. Her relationship with her subjects was deep, considered; so much so that her poetry navigated organically out of the specific of its locale into the universals of the human condition. Her poems move with the seasons of the year and across the history of mid-Wales, quietly recording, sometimes almost repopulating, telling a story. Ruth was a poet with whose work people could get on. Their language is immediate, undramatic and yet dynamic. The word often used to describe Ruth’s work is ‘pellucid’, and it is true that the poems light the reader’s way and are lit themselves, underlain by her use of the telling image and an innate understanding of both poetry and subject.
Forty years of correspondence with Ruth reveals her as a wise and generous human being, sure of her talent (though characteristically modest when talking about it) and of the relevance of her work. When we re-read her poems, as we surely will, that relevance will remain apparent, through the quality of her craft and her love for her locale.