Rusted mining towns in the American west connect along dirt roads with the slate country of North Wales, peopled, not empty, in John Davies’ new collection.
At its heart is the sonnet sequence ’Reading the Country.’ Here tensions such as those between Welsh and English, nature and the slate industry, past and present, challenge the conventional pastoral views of Snowdonia. Extraordinary ordinariness characterises life on the margins: an underground emporium takes root in the Utah desert, a Van Dyck painting gleams in a Blaeanau Ffestiniog mine. Above ground, connection can become familiarity’s commonplace - these poems hover between movement and stillness, America and Wales.
That’s reflected too in poems about coasts and birds. A woodcarver, John Davies is drawn in other poems to craftsmen in paint and words as well as wood, a fascination implied in that variety of form which, along with his wit and consistency of vision, makes for a richly distinctive voice.