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Jongleur in the Courtyard by Mandy Pannett (Indigo Dreams Publishing)

Jongleur in the Courtyard by Mandy Pannett (Indigo Dreams Publishing)

At some point last year after I had written a review-blog about a recently published book of verse about which I was not especially ecstatic I was accused by a friend of the author of being one of those critics who refer to other poets whilst ostensibly focusing upon the subject of the review. Guilty m’lud! And I intend to continue to do that. Perhaps it is part of the legacy I received from being at university in the era that followed on from the world of F.R. Leavis whose staple diet often consisted of placing a poem by one author side-by-side with a poem by another. For instance in the ‘Judgement and Analysis’ section of The Living Principle Leavis put a piece of A.E. Housman next to one by Edward Thomas and concluded that it is a difference in movement that most strikes the reader: ‘whereas Housman’s depends on our being taken up in a kind of lyrical intoxication that shall speed us on in exalted thoughtlessness, satisfied, as we pass, with the surface gleam of ostensible value, Edward Thomas’s invites pondering…and grows in significance as we ponder it’.

On the reverse side of Mandy Pannett’s new book of poems Roger Elkin alerts us to the musical quality of the work:

‘At the heart of the collection lies Mandy Pannett’s skill with sound—these, after all, are songs of the Jongleurs! The chimings of internal rhyme, and assonantal and alliterative sound patternings help to underpin the exquisite, sensitive and varied rhythmic pulse of the collection.’

Well, it was T.S. Eliot who wrote an essay in 1942 titled ‘The Music of Poetry’ and he made a point that must not be overlooked:

‘So, while poetry attempts to convey something beyond what can be conveyed in prose rhythms, it remains, all the same, one person talking to another; and this is just as true if you sing it, for singing is another way of talking.’

Jongleur in the Courtyard is a delightful volume, which brims with literary reference; erudite and careful, it also spills over with a very human voice that fulfils Eliot’s criteria. There are references to Keats, Hardy, Neruda, Kafka, Blake, Cynewulf and, of course, Eliot. The poet of ‘Preludes’ is re-created in ‘Six O’Clock’, a poem which also echoes the feline fogs of ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’. In Pannett’s modern take the fog is now ‘yellow as bile’ and it ‘thickens over a skyline / that’s low, industrial, hot; / red as Whitechapel blood.’
There is a very human voice thrilling down the ribs of these poems and an enviable sense of self-doubt reassures the reader that we can be in a position to share the doubts:

‘There is not an original bone in your frame—
only burlesque, pastiche
and lampoon.’

Perhaps to the reviewer one of the most disturbing and moving of the poems is ‘Some Woodworm’:

‘poor miserable atoms
choked with the fruits
of their soft plunderings

and wiped out
in all the darkness
that once
was chosen as home’.

But, for me, the more moving is the incorporation of a Middle English ballad into a genuine cry for love’s loss in ‘Raven, My Doom’:

‘I am weary of dreams
that offer reflection of my own self
but do not yield him back

though imagination
in these hours of sleep
may reel and spin in exquisite belief

that we might say
what we always intended to say
but never did.’

Ian Brinton 25th June 2015

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