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Colin Oliver




Stopped on the path to listen
to a warbler in the reeds,
between myself and these
reeds, stones, dry cracks in the earth,
there is no distance:
I have become seeing.
Overhead a plane circles,
lights winking, and goes.

Colin Oliver


Like the wind searching,
lifting feathers round
the sparrow's neck,
lifting leaves in a wave
across the bean field,
I find no place
where I can say,
here my being ends.

Colin Oliver

Cold Mountain

(After Han Shan)

When I came to Cold Mountain
I made my home among pines
at the foot of a green cliff.
Yet who is here? Cold Mountain:
a vacant house. Jagged peaks,
white clouds and crying monkeys.

After a shower rocks gleam
and Cold Mountain from high peak
down to green border shimmers.
I wander by a clear stream,
watch pebbles in the water,
slip about on the wet moss.

In a valley where mist hangs
I sit by a rock, stay clear,
and see no inside or out.
At sunset, arriving home,
I stretch and take off my cap,
find it beaded with moisture.

I fetch water from the pool
where the herons fish; I share
the mountain fruit with monkeys.
At the centre I have found
a jewel and gained nothing.
The wind hums in the pine trees.

Colin Oliver


If thoughts were bees,
who would dare to shut them
tight in the hive of the head?

He who shatters
this hive of pretence
with the swift hammer of seeing,

sees no box, no house,
no door to lock.
The spell of images is broken

and the swarm
breaks out
to scatter in the world.

The hive of nothingness
brings to the world
the honey of love,

and thought-bees,
watched by the queen
of the eye, roam free.

Colin Oliver


(For Carole)

To see your face
with the eye of emptiness
is to have your face
as my own, and to find
between seeing and loving
not even a hairbreadth.

Colin Oliver

Sea Shell

What secret lies
in the heart of a sea shell
you cannot tell.

But if one day
a shell on a rock should crack
and break its back

your gaze may fall
to find in its secret heart
nothing at all.

Then turning round
to the sea you may wonder
that the waves' sound

can come from an empty heart.

Colin Oliver


(After Kabir)

Kabir says: I will tell you
the secret of love.
The weaver does not weave it,
nor is it grown in the fields,
yet love is for sale in the market.
Go there now: king or beggar,
anyone can afford it,
your money stays in your pocket.
What do you exchange for love?
Kabir says: lose no time,
cut off your head
and take love in return.

Colin Oliver


Hollowed out, I am drawn
to these embers,
smoke dwindling to a wisp.

Rabbit bones bleach in the grass.
I lift the pelvis
over the seedhead it rings.

Sky is a tilted mirror.
I am unshielded,
the hedgebank drones inside me.

The crick of a grasshopper,
the fieriness
as thistles burst and blow.

Colin Oliver

The Last Spark

Poppies burn out
at the brink where I stand

blossoms in the chestnut
gutter and shadows
dowse the lights in the river

under the skirt
of boughs the dark
hole of the water rat looms

and I am the slate
wiped clean the nothingness

that sees the last spark die
on the wing of the swift.

Colin Oliver


No shelter for my windswept face.
The shaking seeds
of the lime are wrapped in leaves.
The streetlight is ringed with filigree.
But I am lost, like the hill
darkened to sky,
irresistibly oned with night.

Colin Oliver

Field And Sky

At the sallow's gap
we step through the hedge
and are nothing but field and sky.
Hares race, lurching
to a tussle,
their frenzy printed in the soil.
The kestrel soars ~
pausing, head down,
to sew with the finest needle.

Colin Oliver

This Hour

A gold stitch in the west frays
and the sky peels to crimson.
Rooks flying aslant cry for the roost.
The small pates of mayweed glow.
We are not strangers this hour
to how the world breathes fire.
Our dog in hedgerow gloom
turns his head to a whistle,
lolling the pink flare of his tongue.

Colin Oliver

The Poetry Of Colin Oliver

Four books are available.

Stepping Into Brilliant Air is a selection of poems written between 1967 and 1999 and may be obtained through the bookshop.

Readers have commented:

"These poems startle. They are lucid, compelling and beautiful."

"I love the freshness in these poems and the simplicity which is extraordinary."

"Each poem must be taken in slowly, savoure--This book is a treasure indeed!"

Ploughing At Nightfall, which may be obtained through, contains poems with a haiku-like delicacy, evoking the East Anglian landscape.

"I was moved by this accurate vision."

"These poems combine spareness and richness of images and sounds."

"They astonish me, break me open."

High River, also available via the bookshop, is a celebration of at-oneness with the natural world. The book is sensitively illustrated by Malcolm Ryan.

"This is fine work, lovely and delicate, in the tradition of nature poetry at its best."

Wild Strawberries is a collection of 18 haiku and 3 short prose-poems going through the seasons. A free copy can be downloaded here.

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