The editor of Quesadilla and Other Adventures, Somrita Urni Ganguly has done a fine compilation of food poetry conceptualized as a proper 5-star menu. Published by Hawakal Publishers, 2019, the book has two of my poems. They are “No Love but Good Meat” and “Woman on A Quest for Perfectly Round Rotis Smeared with Oil & Chopped Onions.”
The poet, publisher, and literary critic, Dustin Pickering reviews the anthology in World Literature Today (WLT), which is a 100-year old literary magazine published by the University of Oklahoma. Here’s an excerpt from the review that discusses my poem.
“In “Woman on a Quest for a Perfectly Round Roti Smeared with Oil & Chopped Onion,” Linda Ashok writes about her mother who struggled to make ends meet. Her celebration of her mother seems to contain an allegory of personal transcendence. Much like Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel,” Ashok writes of a woman struggling with her roles as woman. In Plath’s poem, she begins in stillness and then jets through the hooks cast at her, eventually transforming herself into Lady Godiva. Her protest is the embrace of longing, oneness with Nature’s violence and storm, and final unity with the “cauldron of morning.” The mother in the poem “rocked life / like natural calamities / were only her business.” These lines parallel the opening lines: “rocked her life swinging / from one end / of the mountain / to the other.” Psychic wholeness is symbolically measured in the lines “except in those evenings / when the rotis wouldn’t make / a perfect circle” where the mother loses her sense of self for being unable to provide. However, like Plath (“the dew that flies / Suicidal at one with the drive”), mother “would drop a tear / but get to the job nonetheless.” The poem is deceptively situational, but life’s situations are often poetical. This poem reminds us of life’s essential purpose. No matter what is thrown at you, you are more than a unit in the peace of being. You are part of a larger network with responsibilities.” Read the full review here.
The Indian English poet, Jayanta Mahapatra, edits the literary magazine, Chandrabhaga. I am lucky to have four poems and an essay on mental health published in the magazine that came out in January 2020.
The poems included are, “The Clavicle of Sorrow,” “New Shoes, “This is our Home Where You & I,” and Of Silence that is Heard only by the Flowers.” Jayanta Mahapatra couriered me the book with a beautiful handwritten note appreciating my essay.
I am fortunate to have been published by Jayanta Mahapatra whose poems I studied as a school student.
“A landmark literary anthology of poems, stories, and essays, Choice Words collects essential voices that renew our courage in the struggle to defend reproductive rights. Twenty years in the making, the book spans continents and centuries. This collection magnifies the voices of people reclaiming the sole authorship of their abortion experiences. These essays, poems, and prose are a testament to the profound political power of defying shame.”
Edited by poet Annie Finch, and published by Haymarket Books,” “Choice Words” has a poem by me, “My Sister Grows Big and Small.” It includes poetry by 160 contributors including Ai, Amy Tan, Anne Sexton, Audre Lorde, Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Camonghne Felix, Carol Muske-Dukes, Diane di Prima, Dorothy Parker, Gloria Naylor, Gloria Steinem, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jean Rhys, Joyce Carol Oates, Judith Arcana, Kathy Acker, Langston Hughes, Leslie Marmon Silko, Lindy West, Lucille Clifton, Mahogany L. Browne, Margaret Atwood, Molly Peacock, Ntozake Shange, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Sharon Doubiago, Sharon Olds, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Sholeh Wolpe, Ursula Le Guin, and Vi Khi Nao.
“Choice Words” is available for Pre-Order.
Earlier last year, poets Babitha Marina Justin and Abhirami Girija Sriram edited Salt & Pepper & Silver Linings. Published by readme books. The anthology is a collection of poems by grandaughters of all ages for their grandmothers. The volume includes works by poets from around the world. My poem, “Good Girls are made of Wood” is published in the anthology.
“Linda Ashok’s prose resonates with rare insurgent energy even as she states as a matter of fact that good girls are made of wood, and it is therefore that her grandmother lusts for death, as does the grandchild who wants to see the wood burn.” writes Meena T. Pillai, author and professor of English at Kerala University reviewed Salt & Pepper & Silver Linings in the Times of India. Read the full review here.
I have four poems in the anthology. They are, “A calm that Rides me,” Parable of a Somnambulist,” “Early lessons in Violence,” and “Chandrani.”
This is the first time I have a published haibun in a shared anthology.