Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Ploughing its own furrow, Ruth Beddow's The Thought Sits With Me

When I first came across Ruth Beddow’s poetry on Wild Court, I was especially struck by the natural flow of its language, a quality that makes her work immediately stand out among her contemporaries (Beddow is still in her twenties). I was thus keen to get hold of a copy of her first pamphlet, The Thought Sits With Me (Nine Pens, 2022), and a close reading confirmed my initial impression, as in the closing stanza to Birmingham Central Library, 1973:

…and later, a year since I had left the place
for good – a decade after my parents
dismantled our home – the rubble piled high
on Paradise and said, as I stood watching,
there’s a grace in being forgotten.

The above extract demonstrates an acute sense of the delicate, tense relationship between line and sentence, employing enjambment judiciously, harnessing language to musical effect without ever falling into the trap of artificial fireworks. And then there’s Beddow’s ability to root her poems in the everyday as a point of departure before lifting them into their own world far beyond mere anecdote. In this case, that transformation takes off as soon as the reader realises the rubble is speaking.

Moreover, in thematic terms, this poem is a perfect example of Beddow’s deeply felt awareness of the passing of time. Her invocation of changing generations, also referenced in other poems in this pamphlet, implicitly invites us to think about our own personal histories. And along those same lines, the following extract from
Ode to a Reuterweg Bedsitalso stands out:

…My bag was already packed upstairs
in the matchbox room I had thought Neolithic
but which, in time, as with all the walls we love

and leave, had softened all around me…

This quote again flows easily while also packing an emotional punch. Furthermore, in its reaching out for the first person plural, it again demonstrates Beddow’s ability to carry her poems beyond day-to-day experiences, encouraging us to explore the significance that objects and places acquire in our lives.

In the context of contemporary trends, Ruth Beddow’s
The Thought Sits With Me is consequently a remarkable first pamphlet. It defies fashions to present us an idiosyncratic poetic aesthetic that ploughs its own furrow. Of course, the intriguing issue now is where she’ll take her poems from here. I’ll be following Beddow’s progress with interest. 

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