I was passing through Birmingham yesterday, so I managed to attend the launch of Gregory Leadbetter's first full-length poetry collection. There was a full-house (brimming over, in fact). Jo Bell ably compered, and read too. She's an ever increasing presence on the poetry scene, both live, on paper and on radio.
The supporting cast also included Angela France, who did a short reading. I could have listened to more, but she has another book coming out before long, so I guess I should be patient.
They're all Nine Arches Press writers (and Jane Commane was there to kick things off). Gregory's poetry pamphlet came out with Happenstance, so we have that in common. His first degree was Law at Cambridge (irrationally perhaps, I prefer writers not to have a first degree in literature). He read a generous selection from his book, which I skimmed on the train journey home. The engaging, humourous aspects of his personality evident at the reading don't shine through in the poetry (in contrast to Jo Bell), though there's no shortage of poems "about" family. What struck me during the launch (and moreso later) was his control over long sentences (it's tempting to thank his legal training for that) and the sound effects (perhaps influenced by his reading of the Romantics). Iambics haunt many of the poems, and lines like "It brims from the lake/ where a dead fish floats/ white as blind eye." are rich in repeated sounds. That poem, "Gloaming", ends in a way that shows another side to his work - "Now I learn/ how the bats disappear/ through the door of the trees/ to return seconds later,/ though gone for years.". 2.5 pages of mostly etymological notes help with the extensive vocabulary used. I've a backlog of write-ups scheduled for publication, and at my bedside I've a pile of books to read, but I think this book will be floating to the top of that pile.