Smith/Doorstop, 2007 - £3.00

Judith Lal’s collection is studded with brilliant imagery, startling similes and wonderfully fluent writing.  An example of the last is the opening of ‘Finches’:


That summer, water found its way into politics

and a pollen-cloud blew in from another country

to settle on bodywork as if thinking of no better

place to start a meadow. Then names appeared,

written in saffron and in love with other names.


Starlings are described as “an ever changing/ fingerprint upon evening”, while December trees are said to “hold up their/ empty baskets to the skies”.


I do have several ‘howevers’ though, in relation to Lal’s writing. Her ear will sometimes let her down, and she will give us prosiness (about a hare) such as “…the enjambment his large accurate feet/ make running into tomorrow”. (What does that mean, anyway?) The opening poem, ‘Midnight in the World’s Call Centre’, annoyingly draws attention to itself as a poem (“try telling this poem it should not/ be here”), detracting from its power and focus. Several other poems defeated me by being overly dense and allusive. I felt I was reading a here-I-am-warts-and-all rather than a defining collection.


Her next publication, to my mind, should consist of nothing but writing of the quality of this, from ‘’Barn Owl Hunting in July’:


Even the sun may take its eye


off the Perseid ball of his life,

fall to sleep watching waves,


all proper white, rolling the

peaks of his hunger until he


can return the valentine of

his face and the flower of


another creature’s heart to

owlets so choked up with love.



Paul Lee