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Review: The Punjabi Weddings, by Tariq Latif

John Idris Jones, Roundyhouse Magazine

Tariq Latif is an accomplished writer. His poetry has a real-life edge. Locations and people are evoked with swiftness and suitability of style. There are no trimmings; no fancy words that do no sit comfortably in the vernacular. A comment by Andrew Motion, quoted here, is right: There's an understanding of the beauty of language, which means you have to have a very good ear - which he [Latif] has.

Latif's gift at re-creating moment and texture is clearly evident. In Cutting Wood he ends ...Sawdust, from the jagged/ teeth, falls like snow / on the mud-pickled leaves. 'Mud-pickled' is effective; both as a reference to the packed and condensed nature of the mud, a time process, but also its brown colour, picking-up on pickled onions or walnuts. Sometimes, in this collection, there is an oddness, an originality of reference, but it is not self-conscious and does not detract from enjoyable word-pictures.

His life on the West Coast of Scotland may not supply him with the raw material for his writing. He seems more engaged and accomplished as a writer when evoking people and incident. Descriptions of empty coastlines do not in my view constitute his best work. I like his social, and people-at-work poems best.