Five Leaves, 2004 -  £4.50


This classy-looking pamphlet, with its tactile cream pages and blue endpapers brings together two different kinds of poem. In part one are love poems, lust poems, poems of longing, many in the second person, addressed to a mysterious ‘you’: 


        Regret and loss

        slip from you

        like clothes

        from a bed’s edge


The shortness of the lines in all these poems forces the reader to go slow, to relish every word:  

        Love comes

        like a wave

        a wall of grey water

        silent in the unspoken night

                (‘Flood Warning’) 

Freistadt explores the rich landscape of her emotional life, connected metaphorically to the moon, to animals and trees. This imagery can be bold and startling, as in ‘My Lemur Lover’ and ‘Dark of the Moon’, where the moon “sweeps all the/ jewels of the river/ onto her neck.” Sometimes the meaning is shadowy, enigmatic. You can feel its breath, but not fully seize it.

   The poems in part two are billed on the back cover as “questions of identity—the struggle of a London Jew to understand the war in Israel.” These poems look (and are) different, with longer line lengths, slower rhythms, more cerebral content. Freistadt struggles with the necessity—but impossibility—of writing about war and terrorism: “paper stays white. So I wear black.”

   ‘The Question of Maps’, the final poem, is about refugees in the desert, where the founding of the state of Israel echoes the Exodus story, ending with celebration which can also be read as a desperate plea:  

        And we were together

        and could not be torn apart.


Maggie Butt