A Book Review of “Anatomy of a Storm-Weathered Quaint Townspeople” by Mandira Pattnaik reviewed by Sara Dobbie

“Anatomy of a Storm-Weathered Quaint Townspeople” by Mandira Pattnaik

The twenty poems of this debut collection illustrate a world of simple people with complicated undercurrents. Drawn together through hardship, toil, and natural disaster, they strive to find strength and joy in one another. “Anatomy of a Storm-Weathered Quaint Townspeople” by Mandira Pattnaik, launching on November 20, 2022 from Fahmidan Press, is a study in provincial struggle, both heart-warming and wrenching at varying points.

     From the first lines of the title poem Pattnaik takes us by the hand to guide us with stunning imagery through the small-town India of her heart and memory. The forces of nature play a large role as an overall theme, and immediately the tone of this ceaseless tug-of-war against the weather is set:

we barricade the windows, against a lashing undue storm,

and on the edge of land

hope for, just hope for, sunshine.

     Like a cross-section of the elements of community, Pattnaik puts her imagined town under a microscope slide by slide, beginning with the terrain. A major strength in these poems is an ability to paint a scene so vividly that readers are immersed in vision. The beauty of the landscape contrasted against the hard labor of the townspeople mixes a love of home with the effort to survive, allowing us an almost visual experience:

it’s an ancient metaled road

curving through Sal and Mahua, upon

the foisted earth and down the seasoned bend.

     Layers of nuance are defused through these pieces, perhaps the most powerful of which being the conflict of femininity. The soul of womanhood is woven throughout, from mothers calling their children to come home, to wives cooking “a watery broth” for their families, from a young woman yearning for a child, to an old woman looking back over life.  Feminine roles, duty and obligations are part and parcel of the storm-weathered quaint town. The woman in “Forever Afternoon” bemoans “I scoop the soil in our backyard, as wives are expected to do.” These subtle reminders of female contributions waft through rhythmic lines, creating a strong impression of deep roots. In “Woman Alone, on a Balcony” Pattnaik disarms us, hailing our attention:

hey there! woman alone!

distracted by fescues and

bleached days.

     Fading youth is transformed into a beautiful moment, a commendable one, and we feel the power of the “woman alone” growing as the poem progresses. It is clear that the foundation of community and family begins with women, as they knit together families with years of love and care.

Family too then, must be addressed and Pattnaik offers a darker portrayal in the haunting “Abeoji” when a girl meets up with her father:

it’s an accursed appointment

late on Sunday night

in streets without names

A boy journeys from the confusion of childhood to become a man in “Erosion.” Again the tone is suffused with a bleaker view, a profound sadness permeating the lines:

Hereto writes,

to his dead mother

unsure of the weave of words,

on parchment paper saved from

the last millennia.

Not lyrics, only cries.

This feeling of impending adversity is expanded on throughout Pattnaik’s exploration of the inhabitants of her storm-weathered quaint town. In “Correlation Between Fatigues and a Simple Cotton Dress” a woman laments the difficulty of separation from her soldier husband. In the ominous “Empty Pitcher in a Flooded Coal Pit” a trapped miner hopes for rescue, contemplating those who wait for him at home.

If they discover him drowned,

this yawning chasm will delicately wrap the

fabric of space for light years to come.

     The promise of this collection is its link to the future. In the closing poem, ‘Now and Beyond” the collective voice is almost chanting a vow, “we, the history of tomorrow, sow and reap the harvest of our deeds.” There iscomfort in the time-honored knowledge that through life’s arduous journeys, through toil and trouble, people can unite and take heart in their homeland, their community, and their family. Perseverance grants endurance and can be attained through joining hands with our neighbor. A part of the self is embedded in its original home, and the lure of ancestry will both pull back and push forward, into the next generation.

Bio: Learn more about Mandira with interview with Fevers of the Mind https://feversofthemind.com/2022/11/08/a-fevers-of-the-mind-quick-9-interview-with-mandira-pattnaik/

Bio for reviewer Sara Dobbie: Sara Dobbie is a Canadian writer from Southern Ontario. Her stories have appeared in Fictive Dream, Sage Cigarettes, New World Writing, Bending Genres, Ghost Parachute, Trampset, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. Her chapbook “Static Disruption” is available from Alien Buddha Press. Her collection “Flight Instinct” is forthcoming from ELJ Editions (2022). Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie, and on Instagram at @sbdobwrites. https://feversofthemind.com/2022/09/08/a-fevers-of-the-mind-quick-9-interview-with-sara-dobbie/

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Mandira Pattnaik

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

Mandira: My first publication, a poem, was in a national daily when I was in middle school. Then for over 20 years I didn’t write anything. Life events prompted me to return to writing and now it feels great to be a published writer. I look to read widely, across genres and authors, and try not to get influenced by any particular style or writer.

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

Mandira: I had a secret wish to be a writer for as long as I can remember

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

Mandira: My mom is a great storyteller, so that surely influenced me as a kid. Reading contemporary writers has greatly helped with my writing and career.

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

Mandira: I grew up in India, across several small towns and cities. My childhood and travels feature in a big way in my writing.

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

Mandira: Great question! Work that centers on climate catastrophe in India and elsewhere, is perhaps the most meaningful. I’ve been lucky to be offered publication for climate fiction in multiple journals as well as some poems that address the fragile ecology of places near home.

Q6: What are your favorite activities to relax?

Mandira: Reading and writing.

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

Mandira: That’s a tough one. I think I’ll leave that to readers!

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

Mandira: Again, like my reading, I listen to everything. It sounds weird but my favorites change a lot. I skip from instrumental, to Blues, to K-pop, to Indian movie songs, and everything in between. It’s difficult to choose.

Q9: Do you have a recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you’d like to promote?

Mandira:

“Anatomy of a Storm-Weathered Quaint Townspeople ” is my debut chapbook forthcoming on November 20th. Huge gratitude to publishers Fahmidan Publishing and Co. The collection is about working class people, their loves, lives and griefs, dependent on weather and the natural world and on each other.

Bonus Question: Any funny memory or strange occurrence you’d like to share during your creative journey?

Mandira: It’s actually both funny and strange that I am here, and you’re interested in interviewing me. This is such a dream! Please include any links, bio, a photo to be posted on the website.

BIO: Mandira Pattnaik is an Indian fiction writer, essayist, poet and columnist published in print and online in over 220 journals/magazines across fifteen countries. Mandira’s writing appears in The McNeese Review, Penn Review, Best Small Fictions 2021, Citron Review, Passages North, DASH, Miracle Monocle, Timber Journal, Bending Genres, Contrary, Watershed Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, NFFDNZ, Fourth River, Flash Frontier, Splonk, Atlas & Alice, The Times of India, and Prime Number Magazine, among other publications. Anthologies where work can be found are Best Small Fictions (2021), Best of Asian Speculative Fiction (2021, Insignia), “And if That Mocking Bird Don’t Sing” (Alt Current Press), “200 Poems Around the World” (Sweety Cat Press), “Ten Ways the Animals Will Save Us” (Retreat West), “In the Belly of the Whale” (EllipsisZine) and “Everything Has a Price” (EllipsisZine). Four-times Pushcart Prize-nominated (in 2020 & 2021), four times for Best Microfictions (in 2020 &2021), and thrice for Best of the Net (2020, two times in 2022), her work has also been translated and highly commended by editors including Longlisting at Wigleaf Top 50 2022, Honorable Mention in CRAFT Flash Contest 2020, and Highly Commended at Litro Magazine Summer Contest 2021. 

WEBSITE LINK: mandirapattnaik.com

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Chris L. Butler

with Chris L. Butler (@CLBPoetry)

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences and biggest influences currently?

Chris: I began my writing journey in the nineties as a child. I was mostly a notebook poet growing up. I rarely wrote nonfiction outside of journaling. In my teens, I was more prone to writing short stories, fanfiction, poems, and raps. As I got into my twenties I knew I wanted to write more poetry, but I also grew an interest in nonfiction through blogging. After a sports blog and a pop culture blog, I shifted fully into poetry and creative nonfiction as primary genres.

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

Chris: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I did not take it seriously though until a few years ago. Prior to this, it was more of a hobby or creative outlet. Even when I was blogging (2011-2018), I was not holding myself accountable in the way that I am now.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?

Chris: I’m not sure there is a “most” for anyone as far as direct help goes. I’ve been blessed with a village. What I will say is, I have writers and editors who I’ve connected with that have helped me grow. Some that come to mind are Randall Horton, Quintin Collins, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Iain Haley Pollock, Daniel Peña, Jane Creighton, Denzel X. Scott, Lynne Schmidt, Samantha Jones, Reggie Johnson, and Anne Marie Oomen. On the editing side definitely Christopher Margolin, Bradley Galimore, and Jeni De la O.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?

Chris: I love this question because it is more direct than “where are you from?” I was born and raised in West Philadelphia. It has influenced my writing a great deal as I’ve published a poem called “It’s Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and a genre buster called “JAWN: A Philadelphian Lyric.” Travels away from home don’t influence my work as much as some others but that is probably because I’ve lived a lot of places. These places have inspired new work.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Chris: At this stage in my career, I would have to say my micro-chapbook BLERD: ’80s BABY, ’90s KID (Daily Drunk Press, 2021). I co-won my first contest when this was a manuscript, and it has created so many beautiful memories for me since that. For example, I got to perform on various virtual stages with writers like Mahogany Browne, Khalisa Rae, and Meg Pillow. This chapbook was also listed as one of the 300 poetry collections to read in 2021 by The Kenyon Review. It has been amazing to be recognized for my poetry.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Chris: Cycling, mindfulness meditation, listening to hip hop, watching the NBA, and hiking

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others? Or share are link to a favorite artwork or video.

Chris: “Dinosaurs in the Hood” by Danez Smith is easily one of my favorite poems of all time.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BXRENTIqRg

Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire?

Chris: Most people who know me and my work know that hip hop has a major influence on me. But I also love so many other genres. I like almost everything including Ellington, Frédéric Chopin, The Doors, Madonna, Baltimore Club Music, Jah Shaka, and Anita Baker. My musical palette is diverse.

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Chris: My second chapbook is titled Sacrilegious. It comes out on December 1st of this year with Fahmidan Publishing & Co. I’m so excited to unveil this project to the world. It explores growing up in a religious household during the golden era of hip hop. It is a chapbook of free verse and form poetry, with erasures of popular songs from Tupac’s first album, 2pacalypse threaded throughout it. It has been 25 years since he died, and 30 since that album. I wanted to do something to commemorate that as well.

Bio: Chris L. Butler is an African American and Dutch poet and essayist from Philadelphia and Houston. He is the author of the micro-chapbook BLERD: ’80s BABY, ’90s KID (Daily Drunk Press), and the forthcoming chapbook Sacrilegious (Fahmidan Publishing & Co.). He is the 2021 Kurt Brown Fellow for Diverse Voices in the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College. His work can be found in APIARY Magazine, The Canadian Journal of Poetry & Critical Writing, Trampset, and others. He currently lives and writes from Western Canada. His work has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and once for the Best of the Net Anthology.

Book link: BLERD: ’80s BABY, ’90s KID (Daily Drunk Press, 2021)  https://www.amazon.com/BLERD-80s-BABY-90s-KID/dp/B09CCC9WL7