Presenting engagements (including reviews) of poetry books & projects. Occasionally there will be Featured Poets, as well as offerings from "The Critic Writes Poems" series. Deadline is ongoing: reviews will be posted as submitted and accepted. Please engage!
So I don’t know much about Cambridgeshire, an area of
Southeast England. But I do know that Neil Leadbeater holds the area with much
affection, as displayed in his newest poetry collection, FINDING THE RIVER HORSE.
Anecdotally, I hold affection to be deceptively difficult to
pull off in a poetry collection. Affection requires one to tread lightly and
the poets I know and/or read prefer to make their addresses with much more
intensity. Passion! Bereavement! Aggrievement! Anger! Revolution! That’s
okay—not all of us can, or need to, tread lightly.
With FINDING THE RIVER
HORSE, I discover Leadbeater to be a poetic master at affection.As readers, we can benefit. Here are examples,
two short poems:
Lifting the net ouf of the Cam
you watched the sparkle of
drain out of the sieve
and it was like blowing coloured
out of the bowl of a saxophone
one note at a time.
These small farmsteads out on the
end of nowhere.
“Look, over there! Beside the
Hoffer, I saw them!
Not one, but seven foxes on the
There will be hyenas,” (laughing),
“and zebras next!”
A small boy running away with an
Many more examples exist, but affection is not the only
nuance within this collection about which blurber A.C. Clarke aptly observes,
“[T]here’s a good deal more to them than meets the eye.”
There is mystery, usually a good ingredient in a poem,
e.g.“On Midsummer Common” from which
What was it we saw?
On all those walks beneath the
horse chestnuts, what did we see that day?
May-time, and their sticky buds
would be somewhere in your answer
Perhaps it was a shell on broken
Conkers waxed to a sheen
or houseboats on the Cam; London
and stands of poplar; those
brilliant eiderdown willows—
a continuaton of the white willow
habitat along the Hayling Way
and that would be enough
because I will never speak of what
we really saw
There are keen, insightful observations, such as this
excerpt from “In the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge” which articulates something
I’d not thought much about but, upon its revelation through a Leadbeater poem,
find myself much in agreement as regards those who work in museums:
The quiet attendants move with care
as they pace from room to room.
Sometimes they stand to ponder
as if on a point of philosophy.
Deep down they know it all –
have absorbed the wisdom of
They are the proud custodians
of all they survey.
They want to keep it that way.
There’s the inevitable ars poetica with “Whirligigs” using
“beetles on a merry-go-round” as an amusing metaphor for going “round in
circles / chasing an idea time and again / until it becomes a poem.”
There’s even literary criticism:
(click on all images to enlarge)
It’s almost unnecessary to call out wit’s existence, though
I do so to present how, in the second section entitled “Field Notes,” there is
this third poem:
The touch of visual poetry is charming, and also enchants in
another poem, “Lupin” whose format looks like this:
The book’s ending “Notes on the Poems” even enchants! Here’s
This was an immensely satisfying read to me, and I don’t know
Cambridgeshire. I can only imagine how readers, more acquainted with Southeast
England, would be even more delighted!
Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea Resurrects. Her 2017 poetry releases include two books, two booklets and five poetry chaps. Forthcoming later this fall is a new poetry collection, MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (Paloma Press).She does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere for a recent review of her work: Dina Paulson-McEwen reviews AMNESIA: Somebody's Memoir for WALK THE LINE!More info about her work at http://eileenrtabios.com