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Monday, April 20, 2020

The Area 17 Profile Poet Series: Clive Bennett

Clive Bennett

The Area 17 Profile Poet Series: Clive Bennett

Clive Bennett
Sometime muck heap philosopher, thinker, dreamer, birdwatcher, poet, and occasional writer. 

A Spirit of Place

I’ve been writing, or attempting to write, haiku for a year or so now. Along the way, and by happy chance, I’ve been lucky enough to have been guided, knowingly or unknowingly, by some of the masters of haiku. They have kindly and with great patience kept me focussed as I continue to try and capture the ‘beauty of the moment’. 

In the beginning ... 

still waters 
a fish jumps ... through 
my reflection 

This is what I like to think of as my signature haiku - in concept the first I wrote, but it has been reworked a good few times as I gain understanding and confidence in the craft of writing haiku. 

As I sit and think ... 

A few of my haiku, and my first go at one-liners. With commentary. 

sunshine after rain the forest stretches 

Ostensibly written after rain swept up the valley obliterating the forest as I was watching for a Goshawk from the viewpoint looking out over Exeter forest at Haldon. Just as quickly the rain cleared the sun came out and I could see the forest stretching for miles and miles and miles … 

3,500 acres of woodland just 15 minutes from Exeter

Here is the haiku that I was playing around with at the time ... 

goshawk watching 
the forest stretches  
beneath her shadow 

But I also had in mind walking in Savernake forest in the rain – as the rain cleared and the sunbeams shone through the leaves onto the woodland floor the forest woke with the noises of rain dripping from the leaves and a myriad other sounds – creaks, groans, sighs of the great oaks ‘stretching’ in the warming sun – the song of the wood – the forest alive and joyful during the day but which can become frightening at night as ‘shadows crowd the spaces’ – an oblique reference to old Moley getting lost in the WildWood. And of course you don’t get shadows in spaces – or do you … 

The history of the forest goes back for a thousand years or more

“old Moley getting lost in the WildWood”
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame THE WILD WOOD

pink moon©Alan Summers

pink moon  shadows crowd the spaces 

The wonder of the supermoon - its closeness to earth, the stars and beauty of the Pleiades ... then the shadows creep in - a darker side - the interplay between our fear of the dark and crowded spaces, whether in the wildwood, city spaces or corners of our mind, and our self confidence in challenging our demons - the only real shadow is our own, cast by moonlight. Oh joy! 
Maybe I’ll have another cocktail after all. 

shadow play  street light flickering outside my window

Memories ... old gas lamps - shadows on the wall, shadows larger than life, lurking in unlit corners - shadow boxing, and making shadow puppets before bed ... at sunrise the lamp post moves out of its own shadow. Perhaps someone will fix it today. 

sunrise  the cuckoo’s call fills the room

Draw back the curtains, throw open the windows and enjoy both the beauty of an April sunrise and the cuckoo’s call - its ventriloquial call full of sunshine itself. No more shadows! Only echoes. 

magpie nest  the blackthorn winter passes over 

As the dark days of winter give rise to the sunny days of spring, on the morning of Passover a magpie flew up from the lawn into the the blackthorn hedge. I was glad when it was joined by another with a twig in its beak. They flew higher and disappeared into the ivy, where the poplar forked. 

So the magpie nest could either refer to the nest structure itself or the act of magpie going about their business of nesting. 

So in this one there is a degree of symbolism with the magpie bringing both sadness and then joy, as in the old rhyme. 

The image of the lone magpie is seen throughout history and is often shown in pictures of gallows and hanging trees. 

out of the mist 
the gallows tree 
one for sorrow 

There is also the potential play on words in the use of the phrase ‘passes over’ and the symbolic reference to thorns both in the hedge and magpie nest. I mean no offence. 

murmuration  sound of pebbles in the backwash

A contrast here between the Murmuration of starlings - a cacophony of sound which quietens to a murmur or whisper before total silence and the rhythmic sound of waves crashing onto the beach and pebbles caught in the backwash - the sound can be quite hypnotic. 

Originally written to complement an excerpt from the writings (Wild Life in a Southern County 1879) of Richard Jefferies ... 

starling ... 
swirling twisting turning 
drop into firs 

[…]In the thick foliage of this belt of firs the starlings love to roost. If you should be passing along any road—east, north, west, or south —a mile or two distant, as the sun is sinking and evening approaching, suddenly there will come a rushing sound in the air overhead: it is a flock of starlings flying in their determined manner straight for the distant copse. From every direction these flocks converge upon it: some large, some composed only of a dozen birds, but all with the same intent. Viewed from a spot three or four fields away, the copse in the evening seems to be overhung by a long dark cloud like a bar of mist, while the sky is clear and no dew is yet risen. The resemblance to a cloud is so perfect that any one—not thinking of such things—may for the time be deceived, and wonder why a cloud should descend and rest over that particular spot. Suddenly, the two ends of the extended black bar contract, and the middle swoops down in the shape of an inverted cone, much resembling a waterspout, and in a few seconds the cloud pours itself into the trees. Another minute and a black streak shoots upwards, spreads like smoke, parts in two, and wheels round back into the firs again. On approaching it this apparent cloud is found to consist of thousands of starlings, the noise of whose calling to each other is indescribable—the country folk call it a “ charm,” [murmuration] meaning a noise made up of innumerable lesser sounds, each interfering with the other. The vastness of these flocks is hardly credible until seen; in winter the bare trees on which they alight become suddenly quite black.[…] 

wave after wave 
the sound of pebbles 
in the backwash  

When starlings flock together, wheeling and darting through the sky in tight, fluid formations, we call it a murmuration.

Book Review: Wild Life in a Southern County by Richard Jefferies

my backyard a winter wren fills the space 

A Wren, the king of birds - larger than life - his song and ebullience fills the space that is my backyard. Wren can be found almost everywhere and in almost every country, from rocky shores to mountain tops. So my backyard could mean something much larger - a different country - wherever you happen to be - a spirit of place - a Wren singing can transport you to a life or place much larger, freeing you of the pettiness of the mundane. The wren is the embodiment of a bird’s ability to live in tune with its surroundings and to take delight in the natural rhythms and beauties of the seasons. Listen to him sing - the moment is yours! 


Clive Bennett runs a superb blog:
Art in Nature 
The ‘Beauty of the Moment’ – in art and anecdote, poetry and prose

Intrigued further about one line haiku?

Travelling the single line of haiku 
- one line haiku / monoku / monostich


Clive said...

Thanks for profiling some of my recent work, Alan. You’ve made it a good read. Clive

Area 17 said...

My pleasure! Thank you for being a guest poet in the series!

warmest regards,


Clive said...

Hi Alan,

Playing around with this one a bit!

goshawk watching
the forest stretches
beneath her shadow

I think it reads better and the duality of meaning in ‘watching’ is more obvious, if goshawk and watching are swapped around thus ...

watching goshawk
the forest stretches
beneath her shadow

Also, and I’m sure there is a word for this, the word ‘stretches’ can be written with spaces between each letter imparting a more active feel and flow to the whole ...

watching goshawk
the forest s t r e t c h e s
beneath her shadow

Best Wishes


Area 17 said...

Yes, all good fun!


isabella kramer - veredit said...

Inspiring, interesting, and brilliant written article!! Love Clive's way to see the world.


Area 17 said...

Thanks Isabella, on behalf of Clive!

kind regards,

Clive said...

What a lovely comment Isabella. Thank you. I love our world but often feel, like Richard Jefferies must have done, that we rarely stop and breathe and take the time to really feel and see the beauty that is all around us - the moment can be found anywhere and everywhere - it doesn’t have to be about nature, though I do thinks that’s easier, it can be that first sip of a good wine, the way the lamp throws shadows on the ceiling, the trembling of a birch leaf outside the window, or the glimpse of sky through a grimy rooflight ...


Clive said...

Thanks Alan!

Clive said...

But I am privileged compared to many. My introspective view of the world is rose-pink. Yet our collective consciousness is cosmic. Ultimately we all live with our shadows.

Area 17 said...

I've certainly written extensively about shadows both in haiku (three and one line approaches) as well as in haibun. I guess my previous experiences I've witnessed a lot of shadows in people as well as in myself.

the shadow languages we have as animals

Alan Summers
Publication credit: Weird Laburnum (November 2019)
haikai/monostich series Mistero due volte

Clive said...

Yes I like that! Shadows are quite fun to play with. Here’s another of mine ...

earthshine my other half waits in shadow


Area 17 said...

Yes, shadows will play a part in haiku as they are everyday and evening phenomena. :-)

shadows and first light chimney rooks

Alan Summers
Presence journal #62 (November 2018)

Clive said...

Yes I can just imagine this. For a bit more fun :-)

rooks gather … under their shadow the bough breaks


Clive said...

Not a particularly elegant one this - indeed I don’t think it really works. I could refine it somewhat but in reality I think it’s one for the muck heap until such time as I get a flash of inspiration ...

rook gather in shadow the bough breaks


Area 17 said...

It's tricky as you have 'rook' singular, and 'gather' plural, plus 'bough' an old term mostly poetic.

Here's a tercet using 'measure' that could easily have been 'gather'

the rooks measure up
one by one

Alan Summers
Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 26.3 (British Haiku Society journal)


altocumulus the rooks measure up one by one


altocumulus the rooks gather up one by one

Clive said...

Thanks Alan - sometimes they just don’t flow - then I find they are best left alone for a while, maybe to be reworked at a later date.

I remember having a similar conversation with Colin Blundell about a year ago over my use of an apparently singular bird (Family) name as a plural. I was taught (many years ago now and, being the pedantic cuss I am, it’s stuck), that the use of the name as a proper noun could work both in the singular and plural. So rook gather (as in a rookery or a parliament) I believe is ok. I think Colin and I agreed to differ on this!

‘in shadow’ came originally from a passage in the writings of Richard Jefferies in which he writes about rook coming into roost ... ‘The daylight has lingered on longer than expected, but now the gloom of the short January evening is settling down fast in the wood. The silent and motionless trees rise out of a mysterious shadow, which fills up the spaces between their trunks.’ So ‘rook gather in shadow’.

But it’s also a nod to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89, in the shadow of which we still live in the relationship between the monarchy and parliament.

When the ‘bough breaks’ is from the Nursery rhyme ‘Rock a bye Baby’ which may also allude to the events immediately preceding the revolution when King James II was replaced on the throne by William and Mary.

But is also a passing indirect reference to Basho’s ‘crow on a withered branch’ or bough as it has sometimes been translated.

Rook use old dead and withered twigs and branches in the construction of their nests. And of course those lower boughs in shadow will wither and die!

Phew - overworked and overthought or what!

Your comments and examples are helpful as ever.


Clive said...

Some of these and a few more have now been published by Proletaria as an e-chapbook - ‘Feathered Skies’ ...

Thanks Alan for your encouragement.