On the bad days, I shooed her mews away
out of nothing but an absence of joy.
I never installed a back-door flap for her,
so she would patter all night to get in at the window
while I lay wide-eyed and sleepless, pretending not to hear.

I know it was a blessing
when she landed like a fly on my forehead
as I was trying to write,
her cicada rustle scribbling in and out
before the flick of my hand sent her to hide
in the plumbing, where she whined for weeks
until I found her, toad-shy and morning-blind
in the kitchen sink. I held her, for the first time then,
revived her with what has become her favourite wine.

It has often been her game
to go missing. It is where she thrives,
as if she delights in being imagined –
looked-for in the fading light,
or at the beck of a buzzard’s call.
In the garden, I would find her spraint,
stinking of rotten fruit and putrid grain,
the tang of iron and the fume of honeycomb.
She would announce her return with a black-out
bite through electrical cable, then creep in close, dab
my eye with a spider-leg to see if I was awake.

She could drive me mad
with her cuckoo blink –
then I remember how she would
pull me out of the O of a dream
when I couldn’t breathe
and make me a day-bed from her sloughed skin.
She would lap at whatever saltwater
leaked from me. It wasn’t right
for her to see me cry,
but she would tongue my tears away,
curl me a rabbit-fur snake
for a pillow and blow through my ears.
Her opalescent gaze could break
the world-egg open
over and over again.

Tonight, I will leave out a bowl
of blood and marrow to tempt her back,
fall asleep on the sofa, wait
for a child’s hand to touch my face.

by Gregory Leadbetter 

The Poetry Centre recently launched the Oxford Brookes 2017 International Poetry Competition, which is judged this year by award-winning poet Helen Mort. Poems are welcomed from writers of 18 years or over in the following two categories: English as an Additional Language and Open category. First Prize in both categories is £1000, with £200 for Second. The competition is open for submissions until 11pm GMT on 28 August 2017. Visit our website for more details.

Join us this Thursday lunchtime from 12.15-1pm here at Brookes in JHB 207 for the exciting opportunity to hear readings from our two newest members of staff in Creative Writing: novelist Morag Joss and poet Andrew Eaton. All from and beyond Brookes are very welcome, and refreshments will be served!

And later today (Wednesday), our Visiting Professor Michael Parker, and Aleksandra Parker will be in Oxford to launch their new edited and translated version of Andrzej Franaszek’s award-winning biography of the great Polish poet Czesław Miłosz. The event, which Andrzej Franaszek will also attend and at which copies of the book published by Harvard University Press will be on sale, will also include a screening of the documentary film ‘The Magic Mountain: An American Portrait of Czesław Miłosz’. Visit the TORCH website for more details.

‘Imp’ is copyright © Gregory Leadbetter, 2016. It is reprinted from The Fetch (Nine Arches, 2016) by permission of Nine Arches Press

Notes from Nine Arches:

Gregory Leadbetter’s first full collection of poems, The Fetch, brings together poems that reach through language to the mystery of our being, giving voice to silence and darkness, illuminating the unseen. With their own rich alchemy, these poems combine the sensuous and the numinous, the lyric and the mythic. 

Ranging from invocation to elegy, from ghost poems to science fiction, Leadbetter conjures and quickens the wild and the weird. His poems bring to life a theatre of awakenings and apprehensions, of births and becoming, of the natural and the transnatural, where life and death meet. Powerful, imaginative, and precisely realised, The Fetch is also poignant and humane – animated by love, alive with the forces of renewal. You can read more about the collection on the Nine Arches website, and find out more about his work on his website. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Gregory Leadbetter’s debut full-length poetry collection, The Fetch, was published by Nine Arches Press in October 2016. A pamphlet of poems, The Body in the Well, was published by HappenStance in 2007, and his work has appeared in The Poetry Review, Poetry London, The Rialto, Magma, The North, Agenda and elsewhere, including several anthologies. Gregory completed a PhD at Oxford Brookes University, and his book on Coleridge’s poetry, the transnatural and the dilemmas of creativity, Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), won the University English (formerly CCUE) Book Prize 2012. He has written radio drama for the BBC, and was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013. Gregory is Reader in Literature and Creative Writing at Birmingham City University, where he is Director of the MA in Creative Writing and the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets (The Terrors by Tom Chivers and The Titanic Cafe closes its doors and hits the rocks by David Hart) were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2012, Nine Arches launched the Debut New Poets Series of first collections and the press has now published more than 30 collections of poetry and 10 issues of the magazine. We continue to build a reputation as a publisher of well-crafted and innovative contemporary poetry and short story collections. Follow Nine Arches on  Facebook and  Twitter

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.


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’.

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.