Poet Ruth Bidgood will be 90 this year. On her birthday in July she will be launching her latest collection (Above the Forests Cinnamon Press) in Aberystwyth. I first read Ruth Bidgood’s poems when I was in my teens. She is a poet of landscape and people. There’s a touch of the Thomases (both Edward and RS) in her short lyrical elegiac poems of the Welsh countryside.
One of her poems which I particularly enjoy is “Llanthony” in Singing to Wolves (Seren 2000). Visiting the ruins of Llanthony Priory on a busy summer’s day (a Bank Holiday?) she imagines the monks , tired with being stuck in the middle of nowhere, asking “Why should we stay here / singing to wolves?” In the present children are dashing around excitedly, the restaurant is packed and the colours of the hanging baskets outside are bright and brash. But there is one small girl “carefully picking daisies”, choosing to be apart. Perhaps, the poet speculates, she will grow up to be one who loves solitude, “risk-encircled beauty” and “the sweet / unprofitable singing to wolves”.
Is it something to do with the Queen’s Jubilee that age has come into focus more recently? “The Age of Creativity” has been the subject of Radio 3’s The Essay all this week.
Five artists working in different disciplines have explored the interaction between creativity and ageing: screenwriter Colin Shindler, painter Tess Jaray, writer Frances Fyfield, poet Maureen Duffy and composer Francis Pott. I’ve noticed some common threads in their talks. Creativity is not about personal self-fulfilment (though to ignore creativity is damaging). Rather creativity carries with it the responsibility of using artistic abilities for others. Frances Fyfield quoted Samuel Johnson, “The true aim of writing is to enable others to enjoy life or to endure it.”
Maureen Duffy spoke of how she, like Hardy, has returned to concentrate on poetry in later life. Tess Jaray said that for a creative artist there is no such thing as retirement, only a perpetual search for the elusive grail of the perfect work of art.
On a daily basis the artist, young or old, battles with procrastination (pencil sharpening and coffee making syndromes rank high on the list). That’s why Jack London was right – “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”