In Gregory Leadbetter’s second poetry collection, Maskwork, mystery, theatre and ritual combine to reveal rather than to disguise. The mask, in these resonant poems, acts as a way of becoming, seeing, and knowing – granting access to altered states and otherworlds hidden within and beyond ourselves. Here, language itself becomes an animating magic, connecting humans to our ecological roots.

The spirit of revival, renaissance, new birth and rebirth haunts this book: and at its core, the idea of poetry itself as a form of learning – an art and a mystery – runs like a quicksilver thread throughout, between the elusive and the certain. Leadbetter’s meticulously attuned lyrical poetry tells of the transformative experience of knowing, a dynamic state of being that forever alters both the knower and the known.

Praise for Maskwork:

“Gregory Leadbetter's poems are lushly experimental: risking Keats's equation of beauty with truth, their otherworldly soundscapes knock common sense awry. Without pretentiousness (and with humour, deftness, and countless conduits of pleasure) he takes poetry seriously as a form of thought, and his line-divisions and syntax dare often to becloud, not elucidate. To read him is to discover a cure for false realisms, and to be reminded that language can make sense, and remake it, in unexpected ways.” - Vidyan Ravinthiran


The Fetch


fetch, n.2 : The apparition, double, or wraith of a living person (Origin obscure: possibly Old English faecce)

          n.1.1a: The action of fetching, bringing from a distance, or reaching after
          n.1.2 :  A contrivance, dodge, stratagem, trick
          n.1.3b: The distance that waves can travel continuously without obstruction
          n.1.4a: An indrawn breath, a sigh


The Fetch brings together poems that reach through language to the mystery of our being, giving voice to silence and darkness, illuminating the unseen. With their own rich alchemy, these poems combine the sensuous and the numinous, the lyric and the mythic.
Ranging from invocation to elegy, from ghost poems to science fiction, Leadbetter conjures and quickens the wild and the weird. His poems bring to life a theatre of awakenings and apprehensions, of births and becoming, of the natural and the transnatural, where life and death meet. Powerful, imaginative, and precisely realised, The Fetch is also poignant and humane – animated by love, alive with the forces of renewal.
'Leadbetter imbues the lyric tradition with an other-worldly sensibility. What makes me go back to his work again and again is the fact that the surreal flourishes deepen the sincerity rather than distracting or double-parrying. His poetry is uncanny in the true sense: a place of unnerving strangeness where you feel finally at home.' - Luke Kennard
‘The Fetch is a terrific, precise and dazzling collection. The whole book exemplifies a poetry of being that shows what is possible when we allow ourselves to be fully human in our perception and poetry.’
- David Morley
‘In these emotive and thoughtful poems, the world of the spirit meets the physical world: here are ghosts and jaybirds, lichen and longing side by side. A collection full of quiet intent, testifying to “the overwhelming importance of love.”’ - Jo Bell
‘Leadbetter’s poems are finely-made and quietly powerful – every word is the right word. But they can also be deceptive and unsettling, showing us the darkness at the edges of our everyday lives. As he puts it in ‘The Departed’: “I see what the part of me that died has seen.”’ - Patrick McGuinness

'The Fetch is as goosepimpling as a thriller, has a mythic power and is too moving to read in public.' - Anna Saunders, Founder and CEO, Cheltenham Poetry Festival



 Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination 


Fascinated by his own imagination, Coleridge secretly wrote that its characteristic blend of power and desire made him a 'Daemon': a being superstitiously feared as 'a something transnatural'. Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination examines this simultaneous experience of exaltation and transgression as a formative principle in Coleridge’s poetry and the fabric of his philosophy. In a reading that spans the breadth of Coleridge’s achievement, through politics, religion and his relationship with Wordsworth, this book builds to a new interpretation of the poems where Coleridge’s daemonic imagination produces its myths: 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', 'Kubla Khan' and 'Christabel'. Gregory Leadbetter reveals a Coleridge at once more familiar and more strange, in a study that unfolds into an essay on poetry, spirituality, and the drama of human becoming.

'This is a subtle and erudite meditation on Coleridge’s poetry, making frequently brilliant connections with his notebooks, essays, and letters. The theme of the ‘transnatural’ running throughout Coleridge’s work (what we might also call the pagan, the transgressive, or the subversive erotic) is explored with zest and confidence, most particularly so in the ballads. Altogether this is an excellent study, fully alive to previous Coleridge criticism, but not afraid to strike out on its own, and even to adventure into mysterious and forbidden territory, the "far countree" of Coleridge’s imagination.' ~ Richard Holmes, biographer of Coleridge and author of The Age of Wonder

'Leadbetter's method is to probe ideas and explore their resonance: a kind of ultrasound imaging that traces currents of emotion, thought, and morality moving within the whole span of Coleridge's writing. His new book draws on resources that have recently entered the public domain with sympathy and intelligence, and sets out clearly what so many of us have either not been able to see or not quite able to say before. He brings fresh insight to age-old questions and familiar poems, resulting in a clarified sense of the contradictions that moved a great creative mind. This is an exciting book and necessary not only for readers of Coleridge and Wordsworth but also for anyone interested in how poetry is made.' ~ Professor J. C. C. Mays, University College, Dublin, editor of Coleridge's complete Poetical Works (Bollingen edition)

'Leadbetter's book offers us a new way into Coleridge, presenting a writer and thinker who repeatedly found his truest genius in the experiences that made him most uneasy. It is a compelling and encompassing account of a powerfully heterodoxical mind. Leadbetter has penetrating things to say across the whole range of the great career.' ~ Professor Seamus Perry, Balliol College, Oxford, author of Coleridge and the Uses of Division

'Gregory Leadbetter's Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination offers a fascinating and compelling new reading of Coleridge's thought, with a particular emphasis on his poetry . . . Leadbetter writes fluidly and clearly, but his style also bristles with excitement. This is a thoughtful, imaginative, and often daring new account of the poet.' ~ The Year's Work in English Studies

The Body in the Well

a magical and poignant debut’ ~ Kirsten Irving, The Round Table Review
‘very distinguished – so deft in language and imagery, so unique and constantly surprising’ ~ Keith Sagar, author of The Laughter of Foxes: A Study of Ted Hughes
‘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…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.’ ~ Tia Ballantine, Sphinx
‘...he writes so freshly, so well, I greatly enjoyed this first book’ ~ Roddy Lumsden, Books from Scotland

'These poems insist on being heard. They are strange, haunting and beautifully complete...They communicate through words but also beyond words' ~ Helena Nelson, editor of HappenStance

The Body in the Well is, Helena tells me, now sold out - but copies are still circulating in the aether.

The Body in the Well
Even here, where the aquifers are spoken of
with a reverence strangers save for cathedrals,
it’s rare to find a house like this, three stories
of gleaming limestone raised like a lantern
out of the rock, lit like a match when struck
by the stone of the clear moon, a pale flame.
The locals say the house was a dream of his,
climbing like a pyramid month on month:
building it was a way to forget. Make
this dream your own, the auction-catalogue
tells the buying public. The property
includes a well follows in a quieter font.
He would listen at the mouth in the floor
of the cellar, patient for the voice of the dark
in the sound of the stalagmites rising.
When he fell into its echoing heart
the waters gathered him with their song
and here, he remembered everything.
The Chase
I bought him a drink for all the old times
and prepared for an evening over his shoulder.
From a distance I saw his life as a comedy,
laughed at the anguish that ran through his face
as he caught himself at it again: chasing
the hare through the eyes of strangers, exhausting
himself on a scent that led him a dance.
I felt the air shift when she came towards him.
As if marked by a sign, they were a pair
before they knew it. I gave them my blessing.
He followed her as she slipped into him.
I watched them talk and saw it running
between them, its eyes there in a glance
then gone, its ears alert to the hunt.
They felt its heartbeat flutter in theirs,
sure they had it caught, though I knew better.
He kissed her, as if for the first time
feeling for proof in her lips and her skin,
innocent of the hare cocked for the leap
back to the wild: when he looked in her eyes
I saw my reflection double and run.
The School of Resonance
You might see them almost hovering
at a point of utmost clarity,
heads tilted to the pitch, hung
like candles attending the dark,
each a flame sucking the air:
men and women, sometimes a child,
balancing over the gulf
of entropy, the loss of that feedback
from the earth and its suspension
they make it their calling to find.
They live for the sudden
flood of wakefulness
entering the base of the skull
that tells them they have tapped
another blossoming seam
or limitless well, and here they tune
to the brain feeding, the flint
of each connecting fire.
They say that reality gathers
where it falls open; that this event
is resonance. They do not try
to predict co-ordinates for its disclosure
but cultivate a weather-sense
for when and where the waves might
rise in a bore along the spine.
And any place may do. Even
the stillness of this room.