With the River Evenlode as a bright thread which runs fluidly through the writing, this collection looks back to the work in How to Make a Woman Out of Water, but goes on to establish itself deep in new and powerful regions. Healing is a central theme, and the collection takes the form of a river-journey past a series of destinations. It moves gracefully from restorative places and magical birds, through wise ancestors and herbal remedies, until in the end ‘it arrives where it needs to become’: a revivifying destination of music and balance. Its intimate emphasis on place, ecology and environment, combined with memorable evocations of people and wildlife, is rich in fresh images which evoke the song of landscape. Evenlode is a water-cure.
Bernard O’Donoghue praises the collection’s tone and vision:
Charles Bennett translates the beauty of the natural environment in a series of meditative, alert and distinctive poems which demonstrate an awareness of landscape’s potential to refresh our spirits. Loosely based around a mediaeval herbal, the poems take us on a river journey which shows that the natural world is what it always was for those who, like Bennett, have the eyes and words to delineate its wonders.
Gillian Clarke (National Poet of Wales) finds richness and breadth in the collection:
The music of plant-names which generate a Herbal’s mystery (hinting at story, spell and forgotten rituals of healing) lend their litany to this rich collection. The River Evenlode is a bright thread leading the reader through a series of beautifully observed moments: urban and rural, domestic and public, observed and personal. Above all Charles Bennett relishes language itself, finding its power everywhere: from the ‘water-voice of fluvial English’ to (reading the crumpled sheet on which a couple has slept) ‘the grapheme known as Ash’ and culminating in a memorable water-cure of balance.