Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju, Sascha Aurora Akhtar

The Emma Press, 2019   £6.50

Wacky wonder galore

The poems in this pamphlet are a rich blend of unusual imagery, human sensitivities and magic. The lowland Scots for the latter is ‘glamourie’ and this very word suggests the charm of the work, invested, as it is, with strange possibilities.

Much of the play on words cannot be explained. I enjoyed the wacky nature of the lines and the experience of letting myself fall into the haunting layers of ‘in-between-ness’ which infuse the pamphlet. Akhtar works with the temporal and spiritual to create luscious, visceral self-expression.

In ‘Nocturnal Emissions’ the narrator longs for sleep, for the calming music of the nocturne. ‘My nightshift is armour’ against ‘I find myself beleaguered / by inquisitive words’.

The dawn of ‘Matutinal’ delivers new life in a lyrical run of whimsy. We celebrate the colour of an emerging butterfly and the shape shifting from ‘budding / new roses’ to becoming ‘the secret garden / Of angel kisses where baby moons / Sparkle like morello cherries in cloud trees’. You can taste these strong, sumptuous images.

Again in ‘All I Want Is’ the narrator uses repetition to build a desire. We read of a ‘field of buttons’, the ‘teeth of sharks’ and fantastical creatures. The pamphlet is summed up in this stanza:

All I want is
a poem that sings
of melodious tings.

Akhtar uses musical references in ‘Universe’ to explore the fathomless nature of relationships. She speaks of counting notes, ‘sharp & sweet’, of ‘plain bass locked’, and of drowning. ‘There is no end to the words I play’.

‘With the Faery’ reminds me of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. It is luscious in its physical description mixing with the metaphysical e.g. ‘wiser for lakes of folklore’. The poem is steeped in the elements: walls of rain, the moon, ‘ultra-sway night’, microcosms of universe. Wild dogs reign and wildebeests howl.

This is a pamphlet full of surprises. It dares you to free the imagination, to appreciate the wonder of being human.

Maggie Mackay