Friday, May 01, 2020

Poetry, Music, Interviews

This post gathers together links to poems recently published (where they are available online), interviews, readings, and The Fetch song-cycle, my collaboration with the composer and pianist Eric McElroy:

The Fetch: Five Poems - a song-cycle for piano and voice, composed by Eric McElroy, performed by Eric McElroy (piano) and April Fredrick (soprano) - recording released free online 23 April 2020

The Hudson Review (Spring 2020) - four poems from my forthcoming collection, Maskwork (Nine Arches Press, 2020): 'Doe', 'A Poppet', 'Two Lost Things', Consistori del Gai Saber'

The Lyrical Aye (28.04.20) - a poem from my forthcoming collection, Maskwork (Nine Arches Press, 2020): 'Apple Tree'

Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal (Issue 3, March 2020)a poem from my forthcoming collection, Maskwork (Nine Arches Press, 2020): 'Lord of Misrule'

'In Liquid Silhouette: An Interview with Gregory Leadbetter', by Medha Singh, Berfrois (07.02.20)

Write Brummie, featuring specially commissioned verse by Gregory Leadbetter - BBC Radio 4, first broadcast 21 November 2019

Alys Fowler meets Gregory Leadbetter - One to One, BBC Radio 4, first broadcast 12 November 2019

An Interview with Gregory Leadbetter, by Sophie Jones, Artful Scribe (10.12.18)

Life of Breath podcast of 'To Breathe Ourselves into Some Other Lungs' event, Breathe Oxford, 18 July 2017 (recording 19:58 duration, available to stream or download)

Ledbury Poetry Salon - Gregory Leadbetter in conversation with Chloe Garner, Hellens Manor, Much Marcle, 16 May 2017 (recording 1:01:29 duration, available to stream or download)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Four poems at the Winter Solstice

About six months ago - just after the Midsummer Solstice, in fact - I had the pleasure of recording four of my poems with the excellent Soundbite Recording: 'Homo Divivus', 'Imp', 'The Fetch' and 'My Father's Orrery'. The poems are all published in The Fetch (Nine Arches Press, 2016).

The recordings have had an independent life for some time on SoundCloud, but I thought I'd share them here, six months on from midsummer, at the 'year's midnight'.

'Homo Divivus' appears twice: once in a soundscape, and once in just my voice.

Listen to the recordings here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

'The Pact': A poem from The Fetch for Hallowe'en

                                    The Pact

A secret place was all the note said
of where to meet. I chose the woods I walked
the time I lost the key to my house,
returning to find a stranger asleep
on my bed, who woke to say sorry, he got tired
while waiting. Since then I’ve been writing,
letting the phone ring, dropping my friends.
The work grew like a child between
my daylight hours, a nine-month seal
of shared blood, melted in the wax
of a waning flame that tapered to a scrawl
I knew as mine, telling me go tonight.

The figure in liquid silhouette
stepped from the sky between a symmetry
of silver birch, quiet as the morning star.
Held in the split and dawn-red eyes
I felt the kiss of a voice on my throat
sing through my skin with the touch of the air.
I don’t know how long I was weightless
in the promise of those words. They
thinned to silence as the sky paled.
I stretched in the darkened sun, mindful
of what would be waiting in my empty house,
whether it would return this greater loss.

from The Fetch (Nine Arches Press, 2016)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Autumn readings and events

Here are dates and links for my autumn readings and events:

16.09.17 - Poetry reading at Poetry Bites, Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham

30.09.17 - Poetry reading with Rishi Dastidar at Free Verse Poetry Book FairConway Hall, London

03.10.17 - Poetry reading at Poetry AlightThe Kings Head, Lichfield

09.10.17 - Chairing 'Who Needs Nature?' at Birmingham Literature Festival

16.11.17 - Poetry reading at Phil Thomson's Arts Lab, Birmingham and Midland Institute

26.11.17 - Poetry reading at Shrewsbury Festival of Literature

Monday, September 26, 2016

Contemporary Poems in a Shakespearean Soundscape: An Experiment with 'Original Pronunciation'

This year I have had the pleasure of being poet in residence at Anne Hathaway's Cottage (pictured), as part of Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival.

In some of the new poems that I've been working on, I conducted an experiment that, as far as I know, has never been tried before. Inspired by David Crystal's research on the sound-system (or phonology) of Shakespearean English - known as Original Pronunciation (or OP) - I have composed new poems in OP, rendered on the page phonetically, in the manner of dialect verse.

Why? For a number of reasons. The phonology or sound-system of any language has operative effects akin to music - and the attempt to invoke and direct the energies of those effects is fundamental to my practice as a poet. I wanted to release and make more vivid through OP some of the more latent qualities in the English that I use every day. And the peculiar quality of OP itself, in which people from all parts of Britain and the Anglophone world hear something of their own voice blended in strange yet familiar patterns, transcending the false borders bred into us, has a political appeal for me, too.

Elizabethan literary taste valued fresh imaginings of familiar tales: as we know, Shakespeare took up well-known plots and made them something more than the stories they told. I decided to do the same with my experiment in OP - and I knew who I wanted to hear speaking this language.

I present below the first two parts of a five-part OP sequence with this working title: 'Caliban Retaurrns to the Uylund'.

After the events of The Tempest, Caliban is taken to Milan, to live as part of Prospero's household ('This thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine') - but twelve years on, Caliban has been sent back to the island, entrusted by Prospero with a secret task.

Caliban Retaurrns to the Uylund

I. Landfahl

I duyve from the ship hwen I suyt ’err:
the crew cry ‘hwairle!’ but I knohw betterr:
it is muy motherr uyle and I swim
through cloth o’ gohld and sinkin rohbz
until muy skin is ahl a gill agaihn:
muy guarrdians soon a daih beyuynd.

I beach on a waihve and laff in the wash:
I wearr the jelluyfish I caught for a cruwn
with ahl its stings aluyve, still pulsin
luyk the pinches uv ’is spirits did:
such is muy kingship, and I embraihce it.

I listen for the worrms in the sand:
their music mixes with the sea’s breathin
and glints through thought luyk sunluyt: theh hear
muy tears and knohw oo has retaurrned to weep
agaihn, and watch the sandbahrdz blohw luyk smohke
abeut muy earrz, blue as the shark is hwuyt:

that’s a riddle that he tohld, hwen fahrrst
he cahld muy muynd to his, as nou I knohw:
I wonderrd at him, and that, his daughterr.
Hwen she taught me speech luyk theirrs, I asked him:

‘Hwerr is muy motherr?’ Hou pairle he lookid then.

II. The Graihve uv Sycorax

I foller a seed afloaht on the wyind
and fuynd the tree hwerr he feund herr,
led by me: I knew nohtin uv death
soh hwen she stilled I took ’err, sleepin
as I thought, to hwerr she hwisperd
at the moon, hwich listened, crairdld eerr,
at rest in the bohnz uv branches ohld
as she: and I, a chuyld, would earr ’err
anserr, and silverr ohverr in that seund.

I remember hou muy motherr’s boduy
did not staih as I ’ad left ’err, but kyled
up and reund the tree, and scairlid luyk a snairk:
this was hou he met ’er. His uyes
wer wuyld: not with terrorr: something moorr
than uyes should ohld: I guess he spuyd not just
a witch, but the tip and mirror uv his ohwn
moorrtalituy, moorr than natrul
as it was. For the fahrrst tuyme I saw him
in full pohwrr: his cloahk a deeperr nuyt
than ahl the darrkness I had knohwn, aluyve
with its ohn constellairsiuns as he cast
his vise in shairps that muvd along muy flesh:
his staff with its invisible ’and
ohpend muy motherr’s meuth: his earr ahl uye
to what ’er dead tong tohld. I kept his daughterr
wahrrm till dawn insuyde a wolfskin coaht:
she had cruyd to see ’err făthrr soh
unfixed through thohz cohld ohrrz, soh unluyk
the self she knew. I saw muy motherr
shrivel to a blackened thread uv skin:
watched him buruy her spent forrm in emptuy luyt
pegged buy the roots uv that hwuyt tree
in a suylence I have not aird since.
He was tenderr with her in his waih
and seemed to moorrn her as his ohn lairt wuyfe
for ahl he lairterr rairvd uv soorrseruy.

I saw him come eerr ohn last tuyme bifoorr
we sairled for his dukedom and Milan
and nou I knohw the raihzen. Twelve yeerrz on
he tohld me that the arrth hwerr he had buruyd
his brohken staff would be bohth bahrd and bahrrk:
I fuynd the tree is featherrd rairven black.
Forgive me, motherr: I begin to dig.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Poem: 'White Horse Hill'

White Horse Hill

Snowed with ghosts
and the freezing glow
of the sky lowering
its hushing light

the pastures close
cool and cotton
over England’s
buried names.

A grey witness
goes into the land,
inhumes the day
inside its clues.

The trees stretch,
tell the time,
stow the trace
of a distant gun.

In memory of those who fell at the Battle of the Somme, which began 100 years ago today.

'White Horse Hill' was first published in The North 52. It will be included in my forthcoming collection, The Fetch (Nine Arches Press), published October 2016.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

'Translation': A Poem for Refugees, Migrants, Exiles, Humans


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.

A note on this poem:

In 2008-09 I was part of a poetry project run by Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, and supported by Arts Council England, Asylum Welcome and Refugee Resource.

The project brought together fourteen poets and fourteen refugees and asylum seekers to work collaboratively on new poetry.

The collection of poems arising from these collaborations - See How I Land: Oxford Poets and Exiled Writers (Heaventree Press, 2009) - features a Foreword by Shami Chakrabarti, and work by the following writers:

Sadia Abdu, Filda Abelkec-Lukonyomoi, Afam Akeh, Carole Angier, Ali Askari, Annemarie Austin, Amina Benturki, Anne Berkeley, Carmen Bugan, Vahni Capildeo, Normalisa Chasokela, Abraham Conneh, David Dabydeen, Dawood, Dheere, John Fuller, Eden Habtemichael, Siân Hughes, Maria Jastrzębska, Gregory Leadbetter, Jamie McKendrick, Lucy Newlyn, Nazra Niygena, Jean Louis N’Tadi, Chuma Nwokolo, Bernard O’Donoghue, Deji Ogundimu, Adepeju Olopade, Yousif Qasmiyeh.

It probably goes without saying that the ethos of the book and the project from which it grew remains as vital as ever. Bigots have been temporarily emboldened in their distorted views by the recent referendum on the European Union in the United Kingdom, as a result of elements in the 'Leave' campaign that stoked up division, anxiety and fear.
I hope that 'Translation' - my contribution to the project - speaks for itself.