HappenStance, 2007 - £3.00 www.happenstancepress.com
Every once in a long while, a poet climbs from the deep well of ‘otherness’ where Alice fell and offers us a glimpse of that rarely seen shimmering upside-down world, so necessary if we are to understand—and love—our more mundane stumbling lives. Gregory Leadbetter is one such poet.
The language in the poems collected together in The Body in the Well—often lyrical and deeply felt, sometimes wry and whimsical—keeps us floating inches from solid ground but intensely aware of the proximity of the sharp edges of the real world. Leadbetter has taken basic concepts of physics—resonance, oscillation, and tuning—and translated them to lyric. We all oscillate when disturbed, but that disturbance set into motion allows us to see that which we might otherwise ignore.
‘Masts’, for example, positions the reader in a amorphous environment between known and unknown, an abnormal yet active world where air “can no longer rest”, where “the last/ free molecule has been put to use”, and “alpha-waves are butterfly-brained”. I feel somewhat discomfited by this description of warped familiarity, but that uneasiness finds a deep harmony in the last stanza when the speaker of the poem tells us that:
I carry an egg for safety now.
I came too close the other day:
it cooked in my pocket, good enough to eat.
Then I rise almost effervescent, conscious that the speaker (alive in the joy of a soft-cooked egg within this strange overcrowding of air) and I (the listener, timorous within the irony of that) are sliding hand-in-hand across a tight-wire stretched between the ‘masts’ of one reality and the next, and that it doesn’t matter if there’s no net. Footsteps on the wire cause a linked oscillation, and suddenly it’s possible to fly.
Leadbetter’s poems are often marked by such small graceful intimacies that trigger harmonics capable of opening the heart while revealing the delicate instability of our 21st century world. The resonance of the familiar with the unknown reminds us of the joy of feeling alive in a human world where science is buoyed by art.
Young Reader remarks:
This chapbook has a brilliant cover. It is quite surreal and slightly strange, but it brings the book together nicely. My first impression was that the poems were well thought out. They didn’t have any distracting factors, and they were strangely personal, yet completely open to the reader.