An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Oversteps Books
Froude Road
South Devon

Oversteps Books
ISBN 0 9552424 4 4

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This page last updated: 11th December 2007.

Everything in this excellent anthology is written slightly off kilter for the new century, and would get totally lost at a poetry slam or some other cutting edge event.

That's good, because these are mostly thought-provoking words to savour in our destructive times. Here is delicate verse that demands you turn off the telly, shut out the rat-race, light candles and relax into your favourite comfy chair (or peaceful bed), and let Mandy Pannet's word pictures whisk you away.

This 44 page anthology contains 29 poems. Topics range from words spoken by Jorvik Man to a twin-voiced poem about William II, Rufus the Red (1087-1100 AD), from Mira, wife of Slabodan Milosevic, to a couple of excellent poems about Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822).

While the whole book contains a litter of modern-day pieces, the first half concentrates more on a close inspection of the Middle Ages, while the latter section travels further back, to ancient Greece.

BEE PURPLE is a rich, beautiful tapestry but it's not an immediate or easy read. You've got to attune a little to the style. Once you've arrived, the writing is full of richness and hope.

These poems are solid and sparse, well constructed, perfectly balanced and technically superb. Mandy Pannett knows the voice of her muse well. Everything is mature and totally confident. It's clear the poet has spent many glorious hours at her craft, drafting it, reading it, honing it, polishing it and making it as near perfect as she possibly can and loving her work totally. She's made a really exquisite job too.

I was intrigued by the title, BEE PURPLE, so was pleased to discover a descriptive poem about same:

	and talking of light, there is purple, bee
	purple, a vegetable shade for the bees' eyes only,
I'm not sure how that equates to the anthology are these poems aimed only at poets? I think not still, it worked and got my attention sufficiently to find out more.

Mandy Pannett is expert at getting up close and personal in all her poems. Here's a stanza from JORVIK MAN:

	Give me the feel of berry and seed,
	dry stag horn, wet vegetation,
	sharp bright buckle, broken clay
	small beads of amber and jet.
YEH-SIEN is the name of the girl from the ancient Chinese version of Cinderella. Despite the nature of story, there is no spare sentiment here at all:
	Offshore the tyrant
	dribbles his conscripts over the hills,
	seeking a foot that will passively fit
	a restrictive shoe.
The poems about ancient Greece are, again, technically superb. I felt that while DISGUISED AS A BULL was superb, SUATUTANDA, about a fictional place described by Tacitus, which later began to be shown on maps, was both over-long and certainly surprising:

	   Plug a hamster
	in a socket,
	smash a turtle
	in its shell.
	Peel off his skin,
	roast him in lead,
	he's oh so diff'rent
	when he's dead.
The most unusual poem in the collection is THE IRISH GIANT. Written in three voices, it's an account of remains found in a peat bog which is then taken to a laboratory for analysis. Here's the opening stanza:
	I am an eagle stuffed in a jar,
	trout under polythene, bubble mouth hooped
	in a perfect O. Am a tiger 
	rug  flattened, an aubergine embryo, child
	garotted in Irish peat, a boy Inca sacrifice
	fossiled in vomit, a carcass
	kippered in snow 
Several poems in the collection are excellent. Both pieces about Shelley fall into that category. THAT SUMMER is one. Here's a fragment:
	In an upstairs room, Jane,
	his lover this season, opens
	the casement all night to the stars
	and plays her guitar.
And this on the theme of Hansel and Gretel from ADDRESSING ELOISE:
	Where is the tawny gold key at this solstice?
	At the edge of the wood we are children
	abandoned like droppings.
As you've seen from the examples, there's a huge range of topics and themes. Greatly enjoyable and I have no hesitation in thoroughly recommending this anthology.

reviewer: Steve Anderson.

This book contains a rich variety of poems:

	This smiling on film, this goodbye
	fun, did you think you were going to be fed
	still singing to lions?  Well fine
	if it gives you a buzz I suppose.  A video's
	certainly got the edge when it comes to ultimate
	words.  Can be shredded that's true  but it can't
	be answered this side of a grave, and
	another thing  when its recorded live
	like this, well it sticks.
	Re running a tape's like nicotine, an
The above is the first verse of THE CALMING OF EELS,
'For one who left her family to join a cult, and a few months later died in a collective suicide pact.'
Mandy Pannett's writing is optimistic and welcoming, and the book is a very pleasant read. I particularly enjoyed OPEN LETTER TO OWEN GLENDOWER:
	As I intruded then, light years ago, a student in a coffee bar,
	a place of learning faced in glass, the gulls
	of Swansea Bay  you would have liked
	that gateway to the land of song, where boys
	with pale hair and dirty feet made show
	of being bards.  Here was a town once ravaged by a war
	where those who called themselves your Sons 
	brought fire against their foes, the purchasers
	of second homes, where many still had none.
	'Tawe, Tawe, Abertawe'  here was emotion in a chant,
	a secret language you, the heir of Princedoms,
	would have understood.
Mandy Pannett's poems explore the social nature of life.

reviewer: Doreen King.