Take away the hands that held me,
the eyes in which I first saw
love, the mouths from which I learned
to speak.

Take away the house I played in,
the bed I slept in, knowing
they were near. Take their footsteps
from the earth.

Take the city and the sky with it,
the streets I walked looking
for them, take the plane from around me
in mid-air.

See how I land with what they gave me.

Hands that are ready to hold,
eyes in which you will see
love, a mouth that is learning
to speak.

by Gregory Leadbetter

(c) Gregory Leadbetter

From See How I Land: Oxford Poets and Exiled Writers, ed. Carole Angier, Rachel Buxton, Stephanie Kitchen, and Simon White, with a foreword by Shami Chakrabarti (Heaventree Press, 2009)

We’re delighted to begin the current series of Weekly Poems with a poem from See How I Land: Oxford Poets and Exiled Writers – indeed, with the poem which gives the anthology its title.

See How I Land is a collection which brings together the work resulting from the ‘Oxford Poets & Refugees Project’, an initiative of the Brookes Poetry Centre and Oxfordshire charity Asylum Welcome.

The project paired 14 established poets with 14 exiled writers, refugees, and asylum seekers. Greg Leadbetter was one of the poets involved; he worked with Dheere, who came to the UK from Somalia in 1999.

For more information about the project, and to find out how to purchase a copy of See How I Land, please visit the project webpage.

You can also find links on this webpage to some of the other poetry that came out of the project: Bernard O’Donoghue’s ‘Emigration’, a passage from Yousif Qasmiyeh’s ‘Holes’, and Jean-Louis N’Tadi’s ‘Flight of the Writers’.


When the sun’s rays appeared
that day
in my head they shook up
the seasons, all four
and I found the way, my love
in the midst of May
into your arms once more.

We had taken the same train
to the same station
but I don’t know why
today it’s from behind the window
that I see you pass by.

Your train winds, unwinds
will you ever stop one day
to stand on the same side
                                              as me?

by Rachida Madani

From: The Other Half of History: Francophone African Women’s Poetry.
Edited by Georgina Collins.

Rachida Madani was born in Tangiers, Morocco in 1951 and still lives there today. After working as a teacher for thirty years, she decided to dedicate her time to writing. Rachida has published several collections of poetry, including Blessures au Vent and a novel entitled L’Histoire Peut Attendre.

Georgina Collins is a PhD researcher at Warwick University, focusing on francophone African women’s poetry. Prior to a career in global marketing, she travelled the world as a journalist with BFBS Forces radio.

The Heaventree Press is an independent poetry press based in Coventry. For more information on Heaventree and to buy The Other Half of History: Francophone African Women’s Poetry, please visit the Heaventree Press website.

The Astronaut’s Return

She looks familiar; yes, she is my wife.
Her hair is longer; it’s been months.
I don’t think she expected to see me again.
She doesn’t talk as much as I remember
and when she does she’s speaking to a child.

I notice how her body moves beneath her clothes
and when she’s naked, in the bath or in bed;
how independent it is, in spite of her.
When she sees me looking she turns away.
When I touch her skin she flinches.

The clothes she says are mine no longer fit.
Eat, she says, please eat, and I love you.
I soothe her as best I can. I tell her that
I’m learning to come back.  But my eyes,
still wide open, sparkle like topaz when I sleep.

by Gregory Leadbetter

Gregory Leadbetter was born in Stourbridge in 1975. He practised as an environmental lawyer for several years before transferring his main interests to writing. Since then he has written for the BBC radio drama series Silver Street, and his poems have been published widely. He is currently completing a PhD on Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A pamphlet of his poems, The Body in the Well, is published with HappenStance Press.

Heaventree New Poets, now in its fourth volume, is a series collecting the best new poetry. The collections aspire to Heaventree’s philosophy of providing high quality new modern literature at a relatively low cost. Volume 4 featured Gregory Leadbetter alongside Patrick Gilmore and Jonathan Morley, three poets noted for their bold content and technical precision. To purchase a copy of Heaventree Poets, Volume 4 please visit the Heaventree Press website.

“the poem is nothing”


the poem is nothing
if not an anvil

scolding spikes of tangerine get
hammered into various shapes on its surface

maybe a wild black horse or
a scrap of the moon or a girl
sitting on the rim of a fountain
about to fall in or not
about to fall in & ruin her good summer dress
or a set of steel teeth with a winding mechanism
big enough to chew the entire city up
munch munch off it goes

glaring sparks rainbow through the air
they could start fires but the poem
stays cool black motionless & there
you can’t shift it now


the poem is nothing if not an anvil
it whistles down the coyote gets it

by Simon Turner

Simon Turner has been writing poetry for ten years and this poem comes from his collection, You Are Here, recently published by Heaventree. He lives and works in Warwickshire. Alongside other West Midlands poets, Matt Nunn and Milorad Krystanovich, Simon Turner’s work is part of a larger-scale movement in innovative contemporary poetry in the region, supported by Heaventree.

The Heaventree Press is an independent poetry press based in Coventry. For more information on Heaventree and to buy You Are Here, please visit the Heaventree Press website.

A Bowlful of Tongues

As we are swallowed by the city’s
lips, open like a kiss,
we all find something to shout about,

the jib of the rain sheared pure
from the backs of pullover clouds
by the falling nuts and bolts
of swearing sprayed by sentimental truckers.

A booing flight of volleyed songbirds
drop shadows all across villa park, croaky throated
with joining in that famous folksong sung
by the proud Tilton singers,
who have proved, that if you keep right on,
eventually, paradise will be yours.

If you happen too quick you’ll remember
to forget the grief that greets as you look back
at the big bloke you’ll never meet until
it’s too late, confronting those who’ve lost
the plot banged against the bumper in front.

Spaghetti steams with a hiss pop cackle of radios
on the blink and a tape of the Status Quo unspooling
like the roads straightening beyond Birmingham calling
in our accent crafted from bitter and graft.

When you bleed out from the Heart towards wherever
it is you feel comfortably zipped,
through suburbs coupled up to share a name
and Somewhere towns someone, somehow,
must love,
but not us,

by Matt Nunn

Matt Nunn was born in West Bromwich in 1971. This poem comes from Happy Cos I’m Blue, his second collection. He is a freelance writer and poetry workshop leader and lives in Birmingham. ‘A Bowlful of Tongues’ was commissioned by BBC Radio to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of Spaghetti Junction.

The Heaventree Press is an independent poetry press based in Coventry. For more information on Heaventree and to buy Happy Cos I’m Blue, please visit the Heaventree Press website. 

The Bus Driver is Accused of not Wearing Uniform

Traffic Court, Spanish Town, Jamaica.
11:45 am. Judge Marianne James presiding.
How does the defendant plead?

Your honour, I plead guilty to half
the offence – I had on a blue cotton shirt
buttoned up and tucked in

to brown pants, your honour. What’s so wrong
in that? Brown pants like the kind
men wear on Sundays,

the kind we travel in –
dignified looking pants your honour
that Gloria just iron the morning.

Is not the navy blue Government
tell us to wear – I know. But the material
they give us so weak

it always sporting holes. I won’t drive
in rags, your honour! Mi mother raise me
better than that.

So I plead guilty to shame
and good manners – splashing cologne
on mi chest each morning and

never boring mi ears or growing
mi hair wild like them criminals today
who jump on buses

to hold knives against wi neck.
I notice I don’t see them
in court today, I guess

bad bwoy never out of uniform;
always wear the same dirty merino
and cut up shorts, proving

that him come from nowhere
and answer to nobody. Your honour,
I plead guilty

to a pair of brown pants
and having old time ways that say
a man must leave his house

in clothes that don’t tear,
clothes he can wear proud
on his Judgement Day.

by Kei Miller

Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978. His first collection of short fiction, The Fear of Stones, was short-listed in 2007 for the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize. He is also the editor of Carcanet’s New Caribbean Poetry: An Anthology.  Kingdom of Empty Bellies was his first book of poetry; There Is an Anger That Moves will be published by Carcanet in October 2007.

The Heaventree Press is an independent poetry press based in Coventry. For more information on Heaventree and to buy Kingdom of Empty Bellies, please visit the Heaventree Press website. 

At twilight

Beneath a chicken that scratches
the landscape slides
towards our intimacy.
The potted plant in the balcony
not exceeding its season in flowers.
The helpless way my head
is balanced at the window,
like in Modigliani’s necklines.
Your hips—a single shape
bivalve, dehiscent.
And the quietness of the breeze in the area of these lines
that, so it appears,
draws the bed-linen to your feet.

by Sebastão Alba

From: Charrua and Beyond: Poems from Mozambique

Sebastão Alba (1940-2001) was a member of the post-independence generation of Mozambican poets. A contemporary of Mia Couto, Eduardo White and Luís Carlos Patraquim, he did not achieve their international success and died a beggar on the streets of Maputo.

THE LUSOPHONE PROJECT: Maria Luísa Coelho, Ana Raquel Fernandes, Tula Teixeira, Jonathan Morley & Ana Teresa Brízio Marques Dos Santos began translating poetry from the former Portuguese colonies in Africa in 2005. They have published two collections from Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. A second Mozambican anthology, featuring the older generation of writers who emerged before independence, is planned.

The Heaventree Press is an independent poetry press based in Coventry. For more information on Heaventree, and to buy Charrua and Beyond: Poems from Mozambique, please visit the Heaventree Press website.