Saturday, December 06, 2008

The other chapbook I've been reading is Gregory Leadbetter's The Body in the Well. This is a 28 page, 25 poem collection available for three pounds.

For the most part, these are striking and unexpected poems. One poem, which I think is a stunner, is 'The Astronaut's Return'. The narrator in the poem is an astronaut who has returned home to his pregnant wife after, one presumes, a considerable amount of time in space, and who is having trouble adjusting to his return as his wife is also. At the end of the poem it says:

"I'm learning to come back. But my eyes,
still wide open, sparkle like topaz when I sleep"

These last couple of lines make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, in fact I think I may end up dreaming of astronauts with sparkling jewel-stars for eyes!

'Who Put Bella in the Wich Elm' is another unsettling poem:

"she was found in the yew, folded up
like a foetus put back in the womb,
her knickers soaked with the last
of her voice, a clot in her mouth."

These are strange stories yet they resonate somehow.
Leadbetter also writes tender poetry with attention to beautiful language and imagery. In the birth poem, 'Naming Day', the child is addressed by the narrator - "You were born / with the waves before morning, lifted out / on the human tide". And in the second stanza: "The sweet spice of your head carries the warmth / of fledging thoughts".

But it's the unsettling stuff I like best. 'Night Owl' begins with - "Then one night I didn't come to bed". I'm not quite sure what the poem is about, it seems to be about an insomaniac but also the metamorphoses of the narrator into an owl which, of course, could be a metaphor for becoming an 'other' in the night, reaching out into the dark and being irrevocably changed by the experience; it's a theme similarly found in 'The Astronaut's Return'. From 'Night Owl' -

"Branches grown through constellations lift me
free of the dreaming streets, nearer
to the creature they hold".

These are poems that ask for several readings and have perhaps many interpretations but their reach is beyond the comprehending mind to somewhere far deeper.

4 comments:

Dave King said...

Strange words, indeed. Scary, almost. Thanks for bringing them to my attention. I think I must have that book.

Sorlil said...

You can't really lose with a chapbook, for that price even if you didn't like the poems you're hardly out of pocket. But I certainly recommend it and I think you would thoroughly enjoy it, Dave.

Frances said...

Even the titles seem unusual and darkly magic. This poetry business. A bit hard.

Sorlil said...

they are aren't they! I'll have to come up with some suitably dark title for my forthcoming (I wish!!) collection, lol!