Who has heard of Ralph Hodgson today, this strange Englishman who expired in 1961 in a small town in the American mid-west? His best known works such as “The Bells of Heaven” seem nothing more substantial to modern ears than pleasant rhymes to charm children and those in a less demanding frame of mind. But I think it is intellectual pretension to think this; every poem has it`s merits, no matter how taxing or not the structure and language may be. Shakespeare wrote beautiful rhyming couplets, and the ebb and flow of his artfully constructed language may seem simplistic but is impossible to replicate. Such is the spark of genius which is sadly out of reach for 9 out of 10 cats. If it could be copied, it wouldn`t be genius but matter of fact, mundane normality which would make life so dull and unbearably uninteresting.
In his day, Hodgson was admired by such luminaries as Siegfried Sassoon, Stephen Spender and T.S. Eliot for his unchanging, simple poetry of the heart, which ignored the tide of fashion as it came and went; he was a chilled out, almost lazy character, who lacked concern over riding the wave along with the rest of the herd. He was a working class lad of little education by today`s standards: a free spirit who mingled with fairground people and gypsies and went to London to make his fortune from illustrating for popular magazines; but it was his poetry which tugged at his soul and claimed his heart.His poetry harkens back to a pre-industrial world of free people and animals, of dreamy, pastoral landscapes of bird song, water meadows and deep, darkening woods. But the England he wrote about was a product of his dreams, and so he ended his days in a remote Ohio village, detesting the literary, social and political gloom of the reality of life in England. He needs to be rediscovered, but Ralph Hodgson possibly defies a juicy biography, his life lacking all of those bits and pieces of a fractured and tortured existence which seems mandatory for good subject matter. He didn`t drink, kept himself to himself, was indolent and anti-blood sports; a quietness of the soul which defies self revelation. His poetry was also quiet, gentle and romantic; there`s nothing that stands on it`s head and shouts at you demanding attention for it`s pyrotechnic display of words; but great poetry can be deceptively simple and quiet; ultimately, it`s all about the creative use of language.