Move to a boathouse by a river –
the walls must be yellow, the windowsills blue.
Sleep downstairs with your head upstream,
wait for a dream of swimming.
When it rains all night and you lie awake
collecting the music of a leak
and reading The Observer’s Book of Water
until you’ve learned that chapter
on whirlpools and waterspouts by heart,
listen to her whisper and giggle
as she scribbles her slippery name
over and over down the glass.
Have a bucketful of oysters in the sink
in case she’s feeling peckish
and a case of Rainwater sherry
chilling in a cave behind the waterfall.
At the bottom of the well
there’s one white pebble –
put it beneath your tongue
until it dissolves into a kiss.
Become so dry she will slip
into the shape of your thirst.
Prepare to be a shiver on her surface.
Taste her arrival on the wind.
by Charles Bennett
from How to Make a Woman Out of Water (2007)
The title poem of Charles Bennett’s new collection, his first since the highly-acclaimed Wintergreen, is full of sensual magic and supple music. It is charged with power and grace, yet lightened by a wry sense of humour. It is lithe and strongly flowing as water itself, and gives a pure pulse of clarity and drive that runs like an undercurrent through the whole collection. Beguilingly simple and approachable, these poems speak with the fluid voice of water. Vivid explorations of water’s depth, linked to the dark release of deep sleep, culminate in the collection’s central sequence: when one of a pair of lovers falls asleep on a beach, the other muses on the seascape, on lives that flourish on the littoral, and the nature of love itself.
Charles Bennett was born in 1954 and was a mature student in the 1980s at London University and the University of Massachusetts, where he was mentored by Joseph Brodsky and Amy Clampitt. He later wrote his doctorate on Seamus Heaney. He has been virtual poet-in-residence for the National Library of the Blind and until recently director of the Ledbury Poetry Festival. He won the North West Poetry Pamphlet competition for The Mermaid Room and his first collection Wintergreen was published by Headland in 2002.
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