Tag Archives: Mandy Pannett

SLQ Daily 09 August 2020

On Mr Covid, Dragons and Ghosts

Our read of the day on the 9th of August 2020 is Mandy Pannett’s review of Jocelyn Simms’ Tickling the Dragon. Featured in this book is the poem ‘Les Fleurs d’Azur’ with which Simms won the first prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition in May 2016.

Our blast from the past today is ‘Ghosts’ – a poem by Durlabh Singh, author of Poems of Excellence. ‘Ghosts’ first appeared in Sentinel Poetry (Online) in May 2003.

Today, I have also chosen to give you a break from seeing a plug of the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition closing on 31st October to be judged by Roger Elkin. This does not in any way at all mean that if you have been thinking of entering this weekend you should not do so. Chuckle! Sip coffee! Go on then, click on this link and do something about prizing your poem.

Finally, if today’s weather is great where you live, enjoy it to the max, responsibly, in safety. Please, please, don’t play chicken with that fellow Mr Covid. He does not play fair. Have a brilliant Sunday and be ready for a productive and blessed week ahead.

– Nnorom Azuonye.

Read of the day

Author: Jocelyn Simms
Publisher: Circaidy Gregory Press
Price: £8.99

Tickling the Dragon by Jocelyn Simms is a stunningly original and moving compilation of poetry, factual information, photographs and individual testimonies about the agony inflicted on the people of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and elsewhere. Tragedy on a massive scale.

The book, which the author describes as her ‘journey of discovery’ begins with sixteen of her own poems followed by historical notes. In the second part, ironically called ‘Island in the Sun’ we are confronted by the chilling impact of photographs taken and postcards with cheerful messages written at the time.

First, the poems. A kaleidoscope of grief though skilfully pared down and understated. Syntax shifts from poem to poem, voices speak in the first person, third person, as witnesses, survivors, as suffering animals. There is a wide range of tones – conversational, colloquial, detached and starkly factual, poignant and wonderfully lyrical. Throughout, there are undertones of irony – codenames, military terms, endearing nicknames for bombs juxtaposed with appalling, barbarous details.

There is an emphasis on time in the poems. The first poem in the sequence, ‘Cutie’ begins in 1918 at an apparently innocuous camp on Lake Ontario where a ‘brilliant boy’ is staying. A boy, they say, who is ‘brighter than a thousand suns.’ An optimistic beginning but the tone turns ominous as we are presented with shocking details about the boy being bullied and tied up as his genitals are covered with green paint. A clever twist in the last lines reveals the fourteen year old victim is the young Oppenheimer. ‘It must have been hell,’ is the author’s ironic comment.

The poem ‘Enola Gay’ continues the focus on time for this was the title of an anti-war song in 1980 with lyrics that contain the phrase about the fatal moment when the first atomic bomb was dropped: ‘it’s eight-fifteen, that’s the time it’s always been’. There are colours too: after the bomb the sky is ‘the prettiest blues and pinks’ while the carcass of Hiroshima leaves ‘a boiling rainbow’.

Jocelyn Simms has written a superb set of poems for Tickling the Dragon. The one that stands out for me for poignancy and sheer quality of writing is ‘Les Fleurs d’Azur’. The setting is Hiroshima, 6th- 8th August 1945. Horrors are depicted – clearly but without comment: ‘The undead, open-mouthed,/gulp as globules of black rain fall.’ When the mother discovers her daughter ‘A white liquid oozes from her. Maggots/spawn in yellow wounds.’ Horrors in abundance, almost too painful to read. But there is beauty as well, and compassion. The theme of this poem, in spite of everything, is love.

Following on from the remarkable set of poems in Tickling the Dragon we are given brief notes on the historical background – the facts, the statements, the evidence of secrecy, connivance, betrayal, the dreadful emphasis on measuring, testing, experimenting with no responsibility taken for actions but only a total indifference to life.

A skilfully presented section but then we have the impact of original photographs lovingly preserved by families – the young men on a burnt beach smiling into the camera, the postcards sent home with messages of hope saying that all will be well.

And as a backcloth to the images, the notes, the poems, we have all the     un-written words, the un-heard voices of the dead and dying.

Tickling the Dragon is outspoken, brave and superbly written. An important book. Read it for yourselves and you’ll see.

It seems appropriate to end this review with Jocelyn Simms’ own comment and the quotation she has chosen:

“Until we take responsibility for our actions, maybe heed the Navajo chant ‘Remember what you have seen, because everything forgotten returns to the circling winds,’ the cycle of war, tyranny and vengeance will continue.” SLQ

Mandy Pannett is the author of All the Invisibles
Web page https://sentinelquarterly.com/mandy-pannett/

Blast from the past


So many ghosts in wandering nights
Clutching at the strings of the heart
A song of dissonance in progress
Sweeping away with long bony fingers
The partial parchments of the syntax.

So many motions in wandering nights
Striking the moon , thundering clouds
Onslaughting mind with sharp edges
Raising voices in apostles of whispers.

Starry nights in the processes of culling
The ghosts resident of the skies
The winds scratching at windowed pane
There is a turbulence in the heavens
Perhaps constructing protections
Against the shadows of the driven.


‘Ghosts’ by Durlabh Singh was published in Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine, May 2003. Singh is the author of Poems of Excellence.


Nathaniel Frankland


‘I’m an acrophobe’, so reads my daily reservation,
On sunless nights sat alone in the
Vertical Bar (Never a cancellation)
Right side of the rooftop,
Wrong side of the Earth…
And, as the barman flicks on another television screen,
I’m glued to the cable wire with
Eyes that fade to pools of
Green food dye,
Even butterflies don’t fly this high.

‘I’m an autophobe’,
And each night I’ll pull up a stool,
Push-button mechanics, propping up the scrollwork with my
Preprogramed hand (No brake band)
And though from time to time they might
Tart up the front with naked neon bulbs and
Flashing lights,
The interior always stays the same:
Dour décor, drink for one,
‘Daft dickhead – Don’t know what he’s won!’
But I’m miles away,
Too busy wearing holes in the soles of my

‘I’m an atelophobe’,
With a cracked mirror for a left hand,
Seven years of bad luck, (look bad!)
Three drains crossed, life’s a drag,
But what chance do I stand against Kismet anyway?
As another Statue of David waltzes in,
With a pack of six beers and a Californian sunset between his
One man’s golden hour is another man’s month of misery,
And my watch is on the fritz.

But at that moment,
As the bar staff start to cling film the taps,
Daybreak comes in the form of you,
A star-studded banderole to appease the
Wildest of seas,
And in a heartbeat,
I forget every storm I’ve ever endured
Because you’re the anchor that keeps me

Instagramophobe by Nathaniel Frankland was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition March/April 2020 judged by Mandy Pannett.

Mike Farren


Touching twenty in the daytime: we walk
the valley of fairy chimneys. On returning,
the village woman in the headscarf, who could
be any age between thirty and sixty,

stares us down, asks, “kardeş?” and when
we look back, blank, slides ring finger
between right thumb and forefinger, looped,
in a gesture I think prudish, obscene.

How could we know, at night in November,
the temperature in this mud-walled room
could fall so low? We put on all our clothes
and embrace through a dozen layers.

I am thinking of the San Polo room
a year ago: how it smelled of old man,
how I woke to find my hand cupping your breast,
your lips on mine, not quite kissing me goodbye.

‘Goreme’ by Mike Farren received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (March/April 2020) judged by Mandy Pannett.