NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
BERTA FREISTADT: FLOOD WARNING
Five Leaves Publications
PO Box 8786
Nottingham
NG1 9AW
UK
ISBN 0 907123 94 5
4.50

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BERTA FREISTADT: FLOOD WARNING

FLOOD WARNING is a beautifully presented book with a striking illustration by Anita Klein of women caught in a rain shower on the front cover. The first section of the book consists of short poems about love, the second section is made up of two longer poems about community and belonging.

The poems in the first section are lyrical and passionate poems about being overwhelmed by love, loving the wrong women, needing to hide love and losing love. These poems make the universal experience of love seem fresh and new, being full of memorable, striking imagery, such as this from I HARDLY KNEW YOU, where:

	....you unfurled 
	in my puritan bed 
	like a buccaneer's flag.
which not only conveys the narrator having her inhibitions stolen away by love but also the fact that love may take over her life.

Imagery from the natural world is used so often in love poetry that it can risk being tired. But here it is fresh and vivid, emphasising a woman's connectedness with the natural world. In DESCENDED FROM TREES, women in love are compared to trees:

	...Weathered by waiting
	sweet sap singing as our branches
	tangle storms.
while in DARK OF THE MOON, the moon looks down on a troubled world, and:
	pointed hat hidden
	by rain clouds
	stumbles over the sky's 
	debris.
which hints at the despoilation of space by debris from space stations, just as the world the moon looks down on is despoiled and imperfect.

Images of floods convey the overwhelming nature of love in TRIPTYCH 1. FLOOD WARNING:

	We wake drowned
	opportunity for floating
	on the surface gone
	with stricken canoes
	never see the wave
	think it a rumour
	till you gulp its waters
which illustrates my slight reservations about these poems. Firstly the lines often feel too short and staccato for lyrical poetry, of course on occasion this may be intentional, but in general it tends to break the flow of the poetry. Secondly, although I prefer the minimalist approach to punctuation in poetry some of these poems seem to take minimalism too far and the punctuation that is used can seem almost random. However these are small criticisms, because the end result does work so well.

The second section contains politically engaged poems that still retain beauty and lyricism. ISRAEL IN KILBURN gives passionate voice to the struggles of a London Jew to understand the situation in Israel. And being unable to adequately find answers:

	...paper stayed white. So I wore black.
The last poem THE QUESTION OF MAPS charts years of journeying in the desert, where water and shade have become precious, trying to build community in a place where everyone is a stranger:
	Some from the hilly region
	for whom the revelations 
	of those plans were too much
	could not forgive all they saw.
	Could not forgive their cliffs nor 
	face the emptiness...
But in the course of the poem, the people get used to each other and to the geography of the place and find themselves:
	...ultimately all in a way related.
This is a fine poem that explores important issues without seeming to and that deserves to be read and reread. I enjoyed the whole book, but it is poems like THE QUESTION OF MAPS that I want to read more of.

reviewer: Juliet Wilson.