Monday, June 19, 2017



(Littoral Press, Suffolk, England, 2017)

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:

River Hoard

Lifting the net ouf of the Cam
you watched the sparkle of shimmer-water
drain out of the sieve
and it was like blowing coloured marbles
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 lawn…
There will be hyenas,” (laughing),
“and zebras next!”

A small boy running away with an idea.

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 this excerpt:

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 ground
Conkers waxed to a sheen

or houseboats on the Cam; London planes
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
that day.

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 centuries.
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 an excerpt:

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 ResurrectsHer 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

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