26 poems on CD by Panni Palasti (reviewed by Paul Smith)
Panni Palasti who already has a book of poetry under the title Taxi Taxi!is an accomplished poetwhose poems always reach for the heart. Now she’s moved from print to a CD collection of26 poems entitled Born in Budapest. Seventeen of them are new, the rest from Taxi! Taxi!
This is a bold project for one reason alone. Spoken poetry leaves its mark but as a genre it belongs to ephemera. You hear a stunning line or see images evoked with passion and skill - but remain a listener, not a reader. It’s not as easy to return to the poem or poems you liked so much. Print will always outdo audio, but it’s audio we’re reviewing here.
Just as in Taxi Taxi!, Panni gives us insights and images which linger and sometimes haunt our collective conscience. She bares her soul and asks the same of us. She explores with detailed delicacy, themes of love and separation, separation and reunion, sometimes illustrating them with the most mundane but arresting of images. Here’s an example from her Home from the Sea:
limp spiral of years,
falls away from my knife,
a pie for you
bubbles in the oven.
Panni’s voice is mellow and saddened, her poems often written with melancholic brooding, but never with sentimentality. As the title of her CD says, she was born in Budapest. She lived through its failed 1956 uprising against Communist Russia and is a witness to some of that history, although that’s perhaps too trite. Panni is that witness - but her work succeeds because she recalls history through our humanity or our inhumanity. The poem which illustrates her approach best is Who is to tell the tale?
Who is to tell the tale of those days in Budapest
when dead horses were sliced for meat,
if not a father offive sharpening his knife?
Who is to tell the tale of the child without arms
whose mother used to cook borscht in Chernobyl,
if not an old preacher composing frugal psalms?
And on a totally different note from An April Moment:
stops at the door,
trails from her hair,
a wisp of wind
tilts her skirt
aware of my glance,
on her way to October.
Tentative ribbon… that phrase will remain with me while others fade. Different poems, like their creators appeal to different readers and listeners. I liked almost all of this collection but felt little for some which bordered on prose. This is a valuable addition to Panni’s work and our knowledge, for poetry of this kind informs and steers us skilfully back to life’s enduring themes.
Mention should also be made of pianist Gabor Tolnay whose whosemusicis a good background though sometimes itintrudes into Panni’sreadings.
Born in Budapest, $25 Published 2010 by Maitai River Press.