A Book Review for “Washed Away – a collection of fragments” by Shiksha Dheda review by Spriha Kant

https://tinyurl.com/czrd3c3r to purchase a copy!

                                                          Book Review by “Spriha Kant”

The book “Washed Away- a collection of fragments”, published by the publishing house “Alien Buddha Press”, is a book reciting the journey of the physical and metaphysical struggle experienced with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (and Depression) by the poetess “Shiksha Dheda”. The poetess desires to make the readers understand her journey and support her which she stated in the following stanzas in the foreword section:

“I want the reader to join me on my journey: why I feel the disorder galloped into existence, how this disorder has been sustained and how I view the future living alongside this disorder.”

“Join me as I try to salvage that which survives; that which persists – refusing to accept defeat.”

The poetess also bared the reason she kept the title of her book “Washed Away: a collection of fragments” in the foreword section:

“Every day, it is as though my personality is being eroded [washed away] by these disorder(s); I have to heal [rebuild/regrow] from the wounds or gaps that it leaves in my life.” 
Also, this poetry book is fragmented into three sections. The first section is “Soap Lathering”, the middle section is “Rinsing”, and the final section is “Drying”. Each section is a collection of poetries describing the different phases of her journey. She named each section according to the stages of “handwashing” which was emphasized during the COVID-19 pandemic. This indicates the reason she chose the words “a collection of fragments” in the title of this book.

The poetess used concise language to acknowledge the readers with her journey. She left no stone unturned in covering her journey’s depth from each aspect.

In a few poetries, the poetess gave glimpses of the symptoms of her disorder, one of which is in the poetry “Why am I, mother?”, a few lines reflecting this are:

“I am standing on the threshold of sanity, mother”

“I am standing on the outskirts of normalcy, mother 
   with invisible rain drenching my face.”

“I can’t recognize myself anymore.”

The poetess in some of the poetries even did a stinging satire on society's negative attitude towards those suffering from mental disorders and the falling of such patients into the stygian abyss due to their cornering by society.
One of the poetries covering this angle is “Shadow”, as quoted below:

“Irrespective of where I stood, 
  the shadow of my personality always 
  seemed to mar their brightness. 
  I retreated to the darkness instead. 
  I retreated to the darkness instead.”

The poetess in some of her poetries openly exposed her shattered condition with a few hard-hitting words, one of the poetries covering this is “Phobia” as quoted below:

“I don’t think I was that afraid of 
  heights or germs or even 
  of intimacy. 

  I was afraid of the most probable, 
  likeliest, most commonplace 
  thing of all: 
  living”

The poetess in a few of her poetries gave details on how her mind used to keep on drowning in a labyrinth of unrealistic quests and dreams and hallucinations, especially at night making her nights sleepless and without peace. This side of hers can be felt in K.P. DeLaney’s poetry “I Have Insomnia” from his poetry book “Swill and Daffodils”:

“I took a swim in the river.	
  the bottom kept changing
  and I lost my feet.
  I haven’t slept right 
  ever since.”

The poetess in some of her poetry gave details on how the constant haunting of her past made her stagnant water. One of the poetries reflecting this is “Old Things” as quoted below:

             “I tried new things 
but the carcass of the old things 
              took up too 
              much space”

The poetess not only confined herself to using imagery metaphors and personifications but she also used oxymorons which most poets and poetesses are still not able to do, one of the lines in which the poetess used oxymoron is quoted below:

“A silent friend singing praise of my strangeness.”



The poetess in her poetry “Attached” also shone a light on that point when she started feeling uncertain about her recovery and started considering this as her inexorable journey, a few stanzas quoted from this piece below:


“I wondered often: 
 is my disorder as attached to me 
 as I am to it? 
 Would it leave me 
 as easily as it had joined me? 

 Or would we have to live like this 
 forever?”

Even amidst all the vulnerabilities and shattered phases that the poetess was undergoing, the poetess had the desire and courage to overcome and to become a person like she used to be before her disorder as she reflected this in a few of her poetries, quoting a few stanzas from her poetry “Crumbs” and a few lines from her poetry “Difficult (re)introductions” reflecting this side of the poetess,

A few stanzas from the poetry “Crumbs”:

“It's like this disorder had systematically hollowed 
  out my personality. 
  Eroding and rusting 
  all my likes and dislikes 
  —           leaving behind only remnants, 

  crumbs. 

  Somehow, 
  I had to make a meal 
  —food—
  —sustenance—
  —life—

   from these 
   crumbs.” 

A few lines from the poetry “Difficult (re)introductions”:

“Introduce me to me, 

  like old days, 
  like how I used to be.”

The poetess however started feeling optimistic lately as she expressed in a few of her poetries, one such poetry is “Butterfly” as quoted below:

“And just as the caterpillar 
  became a butterfly, 
       life didn't seem like a burden anymore. 
              It flew with small pretty wings. 
              Even if just for a short while.”

The poetess deserves to be highly praised for boldly facing her mental illness and for inspiring many people undergoing such phase directly/indirectly through this book by exposing this phase of her openly that most people are still not able to which is reflected in her poetry “Under Lock and Key”, quoting a few lines showing glimpses of the reflection:

  “What if they think I am a freak? What if they lock me up and throw away     
     the key?”

    “What if I am made to live inside another prison? A prison outside of my   
      mind. A prison I can’t recognize. A prison I can’t wash away.”

It is high time society considers removing mental illness as a “taboo issue” and treats the patients suffering from mental illness with kindness and empathy. 



Bio: Shiksha Dheda uses poetry(mostly) to express her OCD and depression roller-coaster ventures. Sometimes, she dabbles in photography, painting, and baking lopsided layered cakes. 
Her work has been featured (on/forthcoming) in Off Menu Press, The Daily Drunk, The Kalahari Review, Brave Voices, Anti-heroin Chic, Versification, and elsewhere. Twitter: @ShikshaWrites

Bio for Spriha Kant (reviewer):  developed an interest in reading and writing poetries at a very tender age. Her poetry "The Seashell" was first published online in the "Imaginary Land Stories" on August 8, 2020, by Sunmeet Singh. She has been a part of Stuart Matthew’s anthologies “Sing, Do the birds of Spring” and “A Whisper Of Your Love” in the fourth and fifth series of the books from #InstantEternal poetry prompts. She has been featured in the Bob Dylan-inspired anthology “Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan” by the founder and editor of the website “Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art” David L O’ Nan. Her poetries have been published in the anthology “Bare Bones Writing Issue 1: Fevers of the Mind”. Paul Brookes has featured her poetry, “A Monstrous Shadow” as the “Seventh Synergy” in “SYNERGY: CALLING ALL WRITERS WHO ARE PHOTOGRAPHERS” on his blog “Wombwell Rainbow”. She has been featured in the “Quick-9 interview” on feversofthemind.com by David L’O Nan. Paul Brookes has featured some of her poetries on his blog “Wombwell Rainbow” including Acrostic poetry “A Rainstorm”, the Alphabet poem “I am an independent Happy Single Woman”, “Travel in the laps of Nature” on National Poetry Day, “Giving Up The Smooch” for World Suicide Prevention Day, and “I love your smile” for World Smile Day. She has reviewed the poetry books “Silence From The Shadows” by Stuart Matthews and “Spaces” by Clive Gresswell.  She has been a part of the event that celebrated the #1 Amazon New Release of the debut poetry book of Jeff Flesch “Nature Speaks of Love and Sorrow” by lending her poetic response “Stay Away” to one of the poetries in the book “Love’s Trials” on Jeff Flesch’s website.


An Overview of James Schwartz book “Sunset in Rome” from Alien Buddha Press

James Schwartz “Sunset in Rome” is part novella/part poetry and is a satirical approach and tackling the subjects of growing up both gay and Amish all the while while paying homage to Denham Fouts, Arthur Rimbaud & “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

http://literaryparty.blogspot.com/?sm_au=iVVV0KrN4Snr9C6NHtJqHK0qJ6jF1

James has been contributing poetry and spoken word to Fevers of the Mind for close to a year, and since then has sent in some unique and thought provoking poetry & stories, and this book is no different than that.

This book begins as a story/play that displays in words the feelings of having to be told to keep secrets. Not only are you discouraged to be yourself. You are abandoned and rendered almost obsolete to those that supposed to have cared for you. So a strong sense of rebellion just to be yourself is born. This unfortunately isn’t the safest path for the character “Jakob” in this novella as he finds himself in a dire situation with some shady characters looking to take advantage of him. So, “Jakob” is always searching for a new way to get to a “home” and to be accepted since the old home isn’t accepting of him. Jakob however, is looking to change the dynamic and expose that there is more like him out there, even in the shadows of secrecies.

The poetry is outstanding from James in the book. “American Linden” which I posted on here as well a month or so ago

Poetry Preview “American Linden” from “Sunset in Rome” from James SchwartzLimbs intertwine, with whisky breath, in rites of splendor, as ancient as, the forest-fawn….”

There are so many wonderful sad stanzas in “The Ninth Garden (9 vs The Garden of Night) “My step falters in the garden of night. I have not the strength left to fight.”The night is old: I scream, I scream. I am youth: I dream, I dream”I seek shelter in the beauty of night. I seek sanctuary by autumn orb’s light”A ribbon of wheat the moonlight paves. Illuminating the garden of forgotten graves” “Leaving behind her heart with mine. Buried in the box of pine.

There is a sleepcast poem (an audio/visual presentation) which includes lines such “I met a guru by chance, as one does at Kehena Beach…he wore flowing robes & flowers & told me Shiva was the god of both marijuana & tobacco”

Please read more about James and his book “Sunset in Rome” with Alien Buddha Press and please purchase yourself a copy of a very unique style of writers out there. James has got the spirit of many writers flowing inside his blood.

James Schwartz is a poet, slam performer and author of various collections including “The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay & Amish in America” (available on Kindle 2011), PUnatic (Writing Knights Press, 2019) & Motor City Mix (Alien Buddha Press 2022).

on twitter James can be found under @queeraspoetry for a follow.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Chuck Harp

Q1. When did you start writing and whom influenced you the most?

     Chuck:  I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I was always scribbling stuff down and drawing comic books.

Q2. Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

      Chuck:  I don’t think it was ever some conscious decision. I just was always creating something and writing was the one thing that crossed over into all mediums I enjoyed.

Q3. Who has helped you most with writing and career?

       Chuck:   Obviously I had a massive amount of support from my family and friends. And my friend and fellow writer Benjamin DeVos convinced me to start submitting my poetry, so shouts to him for that.

Q4. Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?

     Chuck:   I grew up in the shadow of Philadelphia, which is a large influence on me creatively. There has always been a great amount of artistic talent surrounding the Philly area. Everything from murals, to music, to graffiti.

               If anyone has read my work they can easily see that traveling and interacting with people is a huge part of my writing. Road stories and the bizarre communities we infiltrate can be the most powerful inspiration.

Q5. What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

               My poetry is probably my most meaningful creative work, as it is completely freeing during its process. However, I still get excited like a kid when I see my comic book scripts come to life.

Q6. What are your favorite activities to relax?

           Chuck:   I frequent the movies and go to as many concerts as my wallet will allow.

Q7. What is a favorite piece of writing you have done so far? Any meaning behind why?

        Chuck:   This changes every so often. As of today I am going with my poetry collection, Working Title, that was released in 2020 with Unsolicited Press. There’s a lot of myself, my friends, and family in those poems.

Q8. What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?  Or what is a writer or book you always come back to when you’re needing that extra inspiration?

               Chuck: I hate to say it, but I tend to listen to a little of everything. Artists range from Bob Dylan to the Wu-Tang Clan. I grew up surrounded by skateboarding and hip hop so obviously rap is a main inspiration for me.

               While I write however, I tend to have on jazz. Some that have been recently helpful are Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Irreversible Entanglements, and Yesterday’s New Quintet.

                As for writing, I always come back to Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the comics of Dave McKean and Howard Mackie.

Q9. Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, projects that you would like to promote?

               Chuck: I recently released my newest poetry collection, People Watching, with Alien Buddha Press. I’m extremely proud of this work and is easily what I think to be one of my best as it highly focuses on my more observational style of poetry, used to deal with internal demons and concerns.

               Plus that cover is just too sick.

Q10. Bonus Question: Any funny or strange stories you’d like to share during your creative journey?

                Many, but none that should probably be printed.

www.chuckharp.com

Bio: Chuck is a writer and winner of the Mad Cave Studios 2020 Talent Hunt. In 2021 he participated in Grimm Tales from the Cave anthology from Mad Cave Studios. Chuck released two works of fiction and his fourth poetry collection, People Watching, was released by Alien Buddha Press.

A Poetry Showcase from Chuck Harp

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Jess Levens

Q1: When did you start writing and who influenced you the most?

Jess: I started seriously writing poetry in December 2021, but I have been a writer for a long time. I began my career as a journalist and photographer in the Marine Corps in 2002, and I’ve been a writer in some capacity ever since. My influences—and I hope they shine through in my poems from time to time—are a mix of classic adventure fiction authors like Melville, London and Kipling, and poets including the Roberts (Frost and Bly) and Dickinson. I also love the New England transcendentalists, Thoreau, Emerson and their ilk.

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Jess: I’m not sure I ever wanted to be a writer, specifically. I’ve always been a creative person, and that comes through in different ways. In my day job, I’m a graphic designer and video producer. I love photography, and yes, I love writing. I’ve always been in awe of and jealous of painters, and I feel like poetry is my way of painting with words.

There was a specific moment when I knew I needed to write poetry. Last winter, I was watching The Durrells in Corfu with my wife, and the mother recited Dowson’s poem, Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam. It blew me away. Shortly after that, I wrote my first poem which would become Tides (Prometheus Dreaming, May 2022). After that, I was hooked.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

Jess: Well, my dad was a very creative person. He always encouraged my writing (and inspired much of it), and he passed down his wonderful/infuriating ADHD brain to me. As a journalist in the Marines, I was fortunate to have two mentors who truly cared about quality writing and my progress as a writer—Ethan Rocke and Scott Dunn. As a poet, I’ve found great help on Reddit’s subs r/OCpoetry and r/poetry_critics, and more recently, I’ve found a wonderful community on Twitter.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?

Jess: I grew up in Pflugerville, Texas (for reference, this is where they filmed the TV show, Friday Night Lights). Shortly after High School, I joined the Marines and was stationed in San Diego, then I moved to Rhode Island, back to San Diego, then Massachusetts, then Tennessee, and now back in Massachusetts for good.

I think the way my place of origin influences my work is still unfolding. I grew up in a Southern, white, conservative, middle class family, and as I’ve been out in the world making my own experiences, I’ve been able to look at things I thought were gospel (pun intended) through a different lens. It’s apparent in some of my work. Empathy and open mindedness are ongoing endeavors that require deliberate practice.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Jess: Without a doubt, it’s the current poetry collection I’m working on. It’s deeply personal, technically sound, and I’m incredibly proud of it. Earlier this year, I found my old creative writing journal from my early 20s, and it is just filled with shit (which I thought was quite good at the time). Now, at 39 (or 40, depending on when this is published), I’ve really found my voice. My writing has a clear purpose, and I’ve harvested more life experiences for inspiration.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Jess: Nothing crazy—hanging out with my family. Watching TV, hiking, fishing. I work from home, and I usually like to get up before everyone else and go for a drive in the New England countryside with the windows down and music up.

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza/lyric from your writing?

Jess: My first couplet from Tides will always be special to me. It’s the first piece of “real” poetry I wrote:

All bones and brains in battered boxes—
my father’s ashes lost at sea.

A more recent stanza I’m especially fond of is from my poem, Powder Point Bridge:

We’re flowing back and back when she flashes
teenage eyes from the side of her shades and 
I go all irresponsible; the kids, 
the house, the job all vanish for a breath.

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Jess: I’m not sure I find a ton of writing inspiration in music. When I’m out exploring/thinking/brainstorming, listen to a lot of dark classical, post rock and lo-fi hip hop. My ADHD makes it difficult for me to focus on tasks if I’ve got vocals pumping into my ears. When I don’t need to focus, I tend to gravitate toward artists with strong lyrics—the Decemberists are probably my favorite. Their singer, Colin Meloy is a fantastic writer, and I really respect the writing of Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service). Right now, I’ve got Ethel Cain’s album Preacher’s Daughter on repeat.

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, events, other projects that you would like to promote?

Jess: Yes! My first chapbook, A Break in the Spine (Alien Buddha Press) will be available Oct. 26. If you read it, all your wildest dreams will come true.

Bio: 

Jess Levens lives with his wife, sons and dogs in Holliston, Massachusetts, where he draws inspiration from New England’s landscapes and history. His debut chapbook, A Break in the Spine, is available from Alien Buddha Press, and his poetry has been featured in Fevers of the Mind, The Dillydoun Review, Prometheus Dreaming and Roi Fainéant Press, among other literary journals. Jess is a Marine Corps veteran and Northeastern University alum.

A Poetry Showcase from Chuck Harp

Bio: Chuck is a writer and winner of the Mad Cave Studios 2020 Talent Hunt. In 2021 he participated in Grimm Tales from the Cave anthology from Mad Cave Studios. Chuck released two works of fiction and his fourth poetry collection, People Watching, was released by Alien Buddha Press.

Bets Against Myself

Is it time to rise,
or push off the day
and gamble with my time?

Is that piss
I’m standing in,
or someone’s sick?

Is it easier to find a new job
when you already have one,
or when your stomach rumbles?

Is it worse to jaywalk
in front of a firetruck,
or an ambulance?

Is it eleven-eleven,
or happy hour,
the magic number?

Is the chunks missing
from my paycheck each week
worth that healthcare coverage?

Is the bum under the sheet,
lying on the sidewalk,
sleeping or deceased?

Is it the paycheck
that drives an artist
or is it deeper than pockets?

Is it worth staying awake,
rejecting the need to sleep
to write this poem?
 
Battered

Battered,
bruised by my own ego,
staying
stuck between my white walls
empty
as the future before me,
empty
like my checking account,
fed up
lapping this same old road,
the drive
just driving me crazy
and not
to the ancient end goal.

Last Order Lens

An illumination from my monitor
shed light on the static truth
behind the lies of reality T.V.

There was no entertainment
or sense of comradery
with the animals caged in cable.

This was strictly medicine
for those sick of themselves
needing justification to their character.

Witnessing womanizing and destruction
shaking their heads and whispering
under their breath, ‘Jesus Christ.’

To have a vice in the late hour
when others have passed out
and you’re afraid to sit alone.

Vying for the pauses those people
receive between their problems
so they too can catch a break.