The Panic Bird

The unifying theme of this book is finding the self, uncovering and accepting the past, experiencing the present fully. The poems are presented as stories, inner myths, memories and thoughts set off by a photograph, a fantasy in the bath, the re-creation of a walk in Madeira, an extraordinary evening in Trinidad.

'The Waving Woman', the 30 page poem at the heart of this book is a compressed and dramatic novel. It follows the lives, relationships and feelings of Rebecca and Jade who both work at The Unit, a centre for physically disabled adults, also of Steve, a park gardener, who is Jade's lover and Thomas, Rebecca's civil service husband. The fifth main character, Surinder, is brain-damaged and unable to voice her feelings or needs. The poem takes a look at some contemporary issues: the treatment of severely disabled people, urban violence, abusive relationships.

It's difficult to show the character of the poem in excerpt, which is why none of it was included in Insisting on Yellow, but here is Rebecca, who doesn't find it easy to assert herself in her personal relationships, provoked into letting out her anger with her daughter, Sue

  "Shut up!" escapes from Rebecca.
Something hot and unstoppable
passes through her throat
Enitharmon 1998
Enitharmon Press
Price £7.95
Available from me
and as if unconnected with her
screaming bursts into the kitchen,
pierces the cold garden.
She makes no attempt to staunch
the sound when it dies,
doesn't apologize to Sue
who's stonestruck by the table.
  Writing in 'Ambit' David Jacobs said: 'At the heart of Myra Schneider's new collection is the kind of successful narrative poem that turns the brain...It is a remarkable achievement, right from the opening scene-setting of the wife (Rebecca) on her way home and ignorant of the impending crime...'
  In this poem Rebecca finds herself and self-exploration is the theme of the title poem and many others. Here is the end of 'Under', a poem about anger:
  Then I picked up a stone
and stared at my feelings,
a redbacked army
seething seething
on its damp underside.
  The book includes a number of longer poems and sequences which use place as a starting point. I should like to have included all these in full in Insisting in Yellow but there was only space for one of them and some selections. Here is end of the first part of 'Two Weeks in Trinidad': I tread endless sand by a restless ocean,
flee screaming from heavy black wings:
vultures or bloodsucking soucayants
circling, plunging to gobble skins;
as the sun's juice runs red across the sky
and we're warned: "Don't go alone at night,"
a rolled-up tighness is always behind me,
excitement and fear lie inside me,
inseparable waters running deeper than dream.
  Chris Banks writing in PQR magazine ended his review of The Panic Bird: 'Take Schneider slowly, let her power build and you will be well rewarded.'
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