Friday, May 13, 2022





Extinct Species        



At eighteen, they say, there comes

                             a burst of energy;

he snaps his chains and goes out into the blue.

The corrugated tin of rage heats up,

illusory feelings throb in his ribs.

His snail-paced dynamic vanishes,

he gleams in the light of sun-infused noon.

Young men don't cry, they merely seethe within;

youth conceals his shame in small receptacles.

In looks and action, he is bright and hard,

in dimension and demeanor he's capable,


Have all those flowers vanished,

are they only incarnations from old myths?

I haven't seen such brilliance for so long

though I've searched for it every spring

                             and summer dawn.

With some hidden signal, the tree withers,

and always in dreams I grow destitute.

In a land depleted by a great feast of corpses

does anyone survive beyond eighteen?




Translated from the Bangla by Carolyne Wright with Syed Manzoorul Islam and the author.


Shamim Azad was born in Bangladesh and has worked as a journalist for Bangladesh's largest weekly magazine, Sāptāhik Bichitra.  From 1981 until 1990 she taught at Dhaka College. In 1990, she moved to England to teach for the London Education Authority.  Since 2002, she has worked in London as a poet and storyteller.  Her residencies include Tower Hamlets Summer University, Sunderland City Library & Arts Centre, East Side Arts, Poetry Society, Magic Me, Half Moon Theatre and Apples & Snakes. She has written several plays and published over a dozen books including novels, collections of short stories, essays and poems in both English and Bangla.  

In English translation by Carolyne Wright and Syed Manzoorul Islam, her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Boulevard, Hayden's Ferry Review, Indiana Review, Los Angeles Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, and in the anthology edited by Wright, Majestic Nights: Love Poems of Bengali Women (White Pine Press, 2008).  In translation by Debjani Chatterji and Safuran Ara, her poetry has appeared in My Birth Was Not in Vain, The EmLit Project (European Minority Literature in Translation) and others. 


Recipient of grants and fellowships from Witter Bynner Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Harvard's Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Wellesley College's Center for Research on Women, American poet and translator Carolyne Wright spent four years on Indo-U. S. Sub-commission and Fulbright Senior Research fellowships in Kolkata, India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh, collecting and translating the work of Bengali women poets and writers. Another published collection is The Game in Reverse: Poems of Taslima Nasrin (George Braziller). Wright has published five books and four chapbooks of poetry, a book of essays, and three bilingual (Spanish-English). Carolyne's own most recent book is This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems (Lost Horse), which received ten Pushcart Prize nominations.

Syed Manzoorul Islam was educated at Dhaka University and went to Canada on fellowships for further graduate study, receiving a Ph. D. in English Literature from Queens University in 1981.  Later he taught at the English Department of Dhaka University for several years.  A highly prolific essayist and critic, he was a spokesperson for the pro-democracy movement during the anti-Ershad political upheavals of late 1990,  and served as a moral leader and example of moderation for the university community.

Thursday, May 12, 2022







Speak, don’t speak

It makes no difference

For the anger that spews

Like a river of lava

Will find its way


Rising from the core

On its path of destruction

As fiber of her being

Quakes at its fury


Agree, don’t agree

No words will suffice

To soothe or placate

The fiery wrath

That lives in him


So invisible her voice

In silence remains

Praying for rain

To quench the flames





Marian Clarke lives in Drogheda, a beautiful historic town on the East Coast of Ireland. She published two books, Sean’s Billy Bear (featuring her grandson) and Just For The L Of It. Her poems have also featured in The Book of The Trail, alongside local poets from her hometown. Marian is a member and chairperson on The Drogheda Creative Writers. Her poetry is both humorous, and heartfelt. She has been described as “a wounded soul “ by Yuyutsu Sharma upon reading her work while he was visiting Drogheda.



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Wednesday, April 6, 2022







Coming straight down Magnolia Drive the wheelchair with the vet screaming,

“Com’on, hit me, God dammit, hit me,”


and he hit my stopped Honda, again and again, blood on one chrome

rail of his chair. “Hit me, please,” he said, “hit me.”


* * *


Samuel Johnson said, “A book should either allow us to escape existence

or teach us how to endure it.” Some people I think


are books—like the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh who—dressed in an orange gown,

doused with gasoline by ISIS—was placed in a steel cage and burned alive.  


Unrestrained, hopping, smacking the flames on his face,

unable to escape or endure, he finally collapses, every orange page of him wanting to rise.


* * *


Funny how for a child

objects always seem permanent the way, for an adult, people are not.


Tara, putting on her school blouse, says to her toy-green parakeet, “Never disappear.”

Jack says to his stuffed tiger, “Grrrr, Grrrr,” then hides it in the special drawer.


* * *


There was a light rain on Magnolia Drive and the smell of apple blossoms

connected all the living world. The vet had scabs on his hands


and the wheelchair gleamed in sunlight as the scent of blood mixed with pollen.

Spit hung from his chin. He talked about Khe Sanh, just south

of the DMZ, the chopper trying to lift, mortar fire—and then pulled a piece of green


cloth from his pocket, laughed, and called me a crazy mother fucker. A robin

sang as the world stopped.  I remember this so well.


Mark Irwin is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Shimmer (2020), A Passion According to Green (2017), American Urn: Selected Poems (1987-2014), and Bright Hunger (2004). Recognition for his work includes The Nation/Discovery Award, two Colorado Book Awards, four Pushcart Prizes, the James Wright Poetry Award, the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, and fellowships from the Fulbright, Lilly, and NEA. 



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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Pratik WINTER ISSUE HIGHLIGHT : ROBERT SCOTTO ON 'Novels in the year of Covid'




Novels in the year of Covid


Every year a sizable number of new novels are published in English, some by laureates, some by veterans, some by sophomores and some by neophytes. Despite COVID, 2021 was no different, writers, after all, keeping to their own calendars and working, despite lockdowns, in the privacy of their own rooms. Rather than try to summarize an enormous number of books, or even give a sense of trends, I will concentrate instead on fiction from writers with established credentials, several of whom are among my personal favorites. I strongly recommend, therefore, the following, an admittedly selective and idiosyncratic group, in alphabetical order:


Second Place

Ms. Cusk moves beyond her award winning Outline trilogy with a work so understated that it took me some time to realize how profound it was. Not until the afterword do we get a hint about place and time, but that information is unnecessary when it finally appears because the novel is more an enigmatic parable than a realistic recreation of experience. The narrator, a woman who is married to a man who adores her, is looking for something beyond her life at the edge of a marsh, so the couple construct an outbuilding, a second place, to serve as a kind of miniature artist’s colony. A nameless, famous painter in the twilight of his career whom she has admired is invited and the sexual tension mounts as his attempt to paint her in the nude becomes both exotic and troublesome. I won’t try to untangle the mysteries because they are the essence of the book: the unknown Jeffers she addresses her reminisces to, the magical painting the artist produces before he leaves and becomes famous once more before his death, the nature of the relationship between husband and wife: Cusk creates a magical alternate universe that you experience rather than explain.


Cuckoo Land


I thought Mr. Doerr’s first novel, All the Light We Cannot See , a bit over written for its plot, but he has certainly shown with this, his second, that his sentences have range and power, evoking three quite different time periods peopled by five carefully realized main characters and many interesting minor ones. The central historical events are, roughly, the fall of Byzantium to the Turks, the Korean War and a futuristic and incredibly detailed rendering of a colony star ship that ultimately proves to be earthbound for decades. Two young people from different backgrounds, she Greek Christian, he Balkan Moslem, through a serious of extraordinary events that take place during the siege and capitulation of Constantinople in 1443, find each other and overcome the obstacles of linguistic, religious and cultural differences to settle into a lifelong relationship. Two men, one elderly, a veteran of the Korean War, and the other, young, disturbed and brilliant, come together in present day Idaho during an act of protest that goes awry. The two story lines 600 years apart are tied together by the translation by the veteran of an ancient text, which gives the novel its title, and which had been saved and preserved by the couple in Byzantium. The third narrative thread seems at first unrelated to the other two, taking place in the future, but the Latin book plays a part in revealing the lie the inhabitants are living in their false spaceship. Although the plot seems, when deconstructed, utterly enigmatic, the 700 plus pages of the novel are consistently interesting and evocative. The central mystery is the book from the distant past that touches every character deeply.


Klara and the Sun

The only Nobel laureate on the list, Mr. Ishiguro continues to surprise me with his adventurous sorties into speculative fiction, anchored in prose of unremitting realism and precision. The typical Ishiguro sentence renders a scene in such detail that we suspend our disbelief in the strange story involving an android built to be a companion for a child. Unfortunately for Klara, once her charge reaches maturity she is no longer needed, so, powered by sunlight, she is permitted to waste away. As in his previous foray into what was once called hard science fiction, Never Let Me Go, no other writer I am aware of invests his protagonists, who are, after all, machines or surrogates bred to furnish organs for a more privileged class, with such empathy. As Klara fades in the dying daylight, taking in her last rays of energy, this reader feels as if he were watching a living, breathing entity lose her soul.



I am bewildered that Mr. Powers has somehow traveled under the radar of the glitterati even though he produces one stunningly original novel after another. His latest is no exception: the root word of bewilderment is wild, something Powers always is, however much he creates credible people living in the places and through the strange circumstances they encounter. Here we see themes we associate with his other novels braided with a tighter focus and economy: the environmental crisis, scientific exploration that edges into the mystical, a child disturbed by the loss of his mother in an accident as well as what is happening to the natural world, and an astrobiologist father trying to navigate the intensely personal and speculative arrangements that life offers; these include invented exoplanets and decoded  neurofeedback experiments (and Powers makes these complex thought experiments comprehensible) as he attempts to normalize the boy’s life. Bewilderment  is shorter and more intense than The Overstory, his foray into extreme environmentalism, but so packed with information and family tragedy that it seems to be longer.


Our Country Friends

The only real COVID novel of any merit I have encountered, Mr. Shteyngart’s reimagining of Boccaccio’s Decameron  is both funny, as all of his previous efforts have been, and in its own way profound, a microcosm that covers more social intricacies and shibboleths than most contemporary fiction. Seven adults and one child escape plague ridden New York for the dacha to the north owned by a Russian writer and his wife, a psychiatrist. Their daughter, adopted from a northern Chinese orphanage, is clearly gifted if also clearly on the spectrum. Their friends, all but one of Asian origin, frolic, recollect, and fall in and out of love as the world they left behind goes to the dogs. The comedy ends with one of them dying, from the virus they tried to avoid, in an extended fugue which touchingly blends past, present and the dreams that could have been but never were.

I recommend, with some reservation, these:


Talk to Me

Mr. Boyle does not write boring books, and his gift for comedy as well as his penchant for daring to explore subjects and people most writers avoid can both be found in this evisceration of a failed scientific experiment to raise a chimpanzee as a human child. Much of the action involves the stupidity and greed of Nim Chimsky’s handlers, who use  the creature as a career boosting pawn, and the young woman who really mothers and teaches him and ultimately tries, unsuccessfully, to rescue him from the horrible fate of being turned over to a biotechnical institute as an experimental test case. The surface is so dazzling that we suspend out credibility at times simply to enjoy the depictions of inter species interaction and we forgive the cartoonish characterization of the exploiters because we come to believe, like Aimee Vuillard, the heroine, that the chimp is a conscious presence who should be saved.




Mr. Franzen has been over praised and under appreciated because he has dared to write novels that are fully accessible, non- experimental and comfortably earthbound and yet that aspire to be what he called early in his career “art fiction”. Crossroads  is the first volume of a projected trilogy which, when completed, might be close to 2000 pages, a domestic study of a minister and his family over the course of a couple of years in the early 1970s in suburban Chicago, with extended flashbacks. You have to give him credit for evoking a complex social scene with religion at the thematic center and replete with a good deal of sex, a dangerous intersection experienced by the characters as well as the reader. He pulls it off with grace and clarity even if several of the protagonists in the nuclear family are not fully realized and their stories not always galvanizing. Perhaps the consequent volumes will not only fill in gaps but also, by bringing us up to the present day, enrich the barely touched upon political and social issues of the times.

Interestingly, the two British novels are relatively short and written in an unadorned prose while the American novels are longer, fuller, funnier and more variegated, several running to over 600 pages. I am not quite sure why this is so and I do not want to fall into the cliché trap. But the focus of Cusk and Ishiguro is very different from the multi-plotted efforts of Doerr, Franzen and Shteyngart, where various characters occupy the narrative at various times, while the sometimes feverish prose of Boyle and Powers operates at different levels of realism, even though, like Ishiguro, they are speculative rather than naturalistic in intent. Whether you prefer understatement or elaborate artifice, realism or imaginative invention, these seven novels should satisfy your search for novelty as well as charm your aesthetic sensibilities.

Former professor of English at Baruch College, CUNY, until his retirement, Robert Scotto’s previous publications include a Critical Edition of Catch-22, a book on the contemporary American novel and essays on Walter Pater, James Joyce and other major and minor nineteenth and twentieth century writers. The first edition of his biography, Moondog, won the 2008 ARSC Award for Best Research in Recorded Classical Music and the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2008 bronze medal for biography. He has published two poetry collections,  most recent being, Imagined Secrets (Nirala, 2019).


Monday, March 7, 2022






“The ultimate close-up magic trick”


There is no greater agony, Maya Angelou once said, than bearing an untold story inside you. The weight of the untold stories is undeniably immense. And yet so many of us live with that agony. For days on end. And for varied reasons. Sometimes, we don’t have the right language to tell our stories in, and sometimes what holds us back is the lack of the right platform that could showcase our writing: that much-needed validation that reassures you on your journey to be a storyteller. When I started a digital magazine of literature and arts five years ago, I had hoped that in time it would emerge as a cradle of those burning with the desire to tell a story. Over the years, short fiction writers, and poets, around the world have brought us closer to the realisation of that hope.

 The Punch Magazine’s inaugural anthology of short stories was conceived as a gesture to pay our debt to those who trusted us with their work month after month: we wanted to take their stories to the world in a tangible form. When we invited submissions, they poured in. From all over, including the US, the UK, Canada, Spain and Russia. While it was not unexpected given the fact that we had been publishing writers from around the world, we were amazed by the sheer volume of the submissions. After making the selection, even as we were in talks with the publisher, Niyogi Books, that the pandemic struck, taking away the certainties of our lives. However, as we retreated indoors and into ourselves, the power of fiction to transport us to another world, another reality revealed itself to us anew.

The anthology finally saw the light of day towards the end of November last year. The writers whose stories have made the cut are Ameta Bal, Anila SK, Anjali Doney, Camilla Chester, Geetha Nair G., Helen Harris Humra Quraishi, Jayshree Misra Tripathi, Latha Anantharaman, Meena Menon, Meher Pestonji, Rinita Banerjee, Rochelle Potkar, Sarah Robertson, Shilpa Raina, Tammy Armstrong, Vineetha Mokkil, Vrinda Baliga. During the process of bringing this book to life, I have read these stories several times. And each time they have revealed a new aspect of the craft of short story to me. Short fiction condenses the human experience and yet is able to capture its depth. In this anthology, the short stories by contemporary women writers show us how they compress the composites of life as well as expand its complexities and contradictions.

Before I started the magazine, I worked as Head, Marketing & Communications at an International publishing house, Simon & Schuster India. Around the time I left my job and started the magazine, I was dismayed by the shrinking space for books and arts in the mainstream newspapers and magazines. On the other, it was also a time when the literature and art scene was thriving. New writers were getting published every year. Literary and arts festivals were mushrooming. A literary and cultural efflorescence seemed to be on the horizon which would, in due course, see a literature or arts festival in almost every state. Even some cities would go on to have their own festivals. I wanted to create a space that could chronicle the evolution of arts and literature in India, but also around the world.

In developed countries, there has been a long tradition of literary magazines capturing the pulse of their literary life. Granta, for instance, has showcased new writing for years. Some of the best writers writing today were, at some point, published in its fine pages. South Asia, however, is different. There is little support for independent magazines and they are often left to fend for themselves. The pandemic has only made things worse for them. However much we want to promote new voices and encourage intellectual inquiry, we also find ourselves hamstrung by certain constraints. However, we do what we can. We sail against the wind. But we have resolved to keep going, no matter what.

 The stories that are part of our inaugural anthology mirror our cosmopolitan flavour and our core philosophy to feature good voices irrespective of geographical boundaries. London-based author Helen Harris, who has a beautiful story called “Olya’s Kitchen” in this collection, has mentioned how a particular story in a particular setting could be easily replicated to another cultural milieu, without losing out on their power and emotional heft. “Whether previewing an apocalypse or conveying the experience of a refugee crossing oceans, we all seem to inhabit the same imaginary space - wherever we are,” Harris wrote.  In some stories, we get to know the way the memory works. In some other, we discover how the present echoes with the past and feel the palpable nostalgia for good old days. There are stories that centres around the memories of early crushes, unforgettable first loves, and adolescent romance, and others that dwell on the passage of time, with all its attendant ravages — loss, suffering and decay. There are stories that concern themselves with family history and present a portrait of a loved one, and others that capture the vestiges of despair at the gradual disappearance of a way of life or markers of culture. A couple of stories are also rooted in family traditions, interlinked either with food or honour. Alice Munro and George Saunders have told us how we become a different person after reading a short story, how we come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around us. Neil Gaiman has described a short story as “the ultimate close-up magic trick” that either takes us around the universe or breaks our heart in a couple of thousand words. The stories in this anthology do all this: take us around the universe, make us fall a little more in love with the world, and also break our hearts — all this in a mere three thousand words.

Shireen Quadri is the founder and publisher of The Punch Magazine. She has earlier worked as a marketing and communications professional with several publishing houses, including Westland (Amazon) and Simon & Schuster India. She writes on books, culture, travel and hospitality.  She has served as project coordinator for Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters.


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Monday, February 28, 2022

Announcing Call for Submission, Pratik's Australian Poetry Edition, Fire and Rain – co-curated and supported by APWT, Australian Poets Writers and Translators collaboration


Pratik's Australian Poetry Edition, Fire and Rain

– co-curated and supported by APWT, Australian Poets Writers and Translators collaboration 

+ $500 AUD Cash Prize

Asia Pacific Writers and Translators (APWT) and Pratik: A Magazine of Contemporary Writing invite submissions for Fire and Rain – a special edition of the magazine focused on Australian poetry. The theme acts as a kicking off point and is open to interpretation – we seek previously unpublished poetry that evokes a sense of Australia – either geographically, spiritually, politically, linguistically,culturally,or otherwise. This edition celebrates the diversity of Australian poetic perspectives and voices – we welcome submissions from both established and emerging poets, indigenous writers and LGBTIQ+ community. We are open to experimental forms and multiple submissions are permitted. Previous well received special editions of Pratik magazine have focused on writing from Ireland, Los Angeles and Nepal amongst others and we foresee Fire and Rain will contribute to this ongoing international conversation with vibrant new work from Australian poets. Pratik published quarterly is edited by the world-renowned Himalayan poet, Yuyutsu Sharma in Kathmandu and has become a significant international platform of creative writing. You can access previous editions of Pratik here http://pratikmagazine.blogspot.comand
it is also available for purchase via Amazon.

Readers for this edition will be editor of Pratik Yuyutsu Sharma, Executive Director of APWT and author Dr Sally Breen and celebrated Australian poet Jennifer Mackenzie. One entry selected by the readers will be awarded the $500 AUD cash prize. Submission is open to financial members of APWT – not a member? Join here:
Visit our Submittable Page to enter:
Submission close: April 1st 2022
Submission Guidelines
• Submissions are open to emerging and established Australian poets who are financial members of Asia Pacific Writers and Translators. New members are welcome to submit – you can join APWT via the following link:
• Unpublished poems only.
• We accept simultaneous submissions but please notify us if your work is picked up elsewhere.
• No more than five poems may be submitted. There is no line-limit. Poems may be any length, any style, but must feature reference to some aspect of Australia as identified in the blurb.
• Multiple submissions are allowed, but each new submission requires a new fee.
• Please include a brief cover note with your professional bio and a brief introduction via the submittable page where indicated.
• Submission fee of $5 USD.
• Deadline is midnight April 1st, 2022.
• The decision of the readers is final and no correspondence will be entered into regarding work submitted. If you have a general query about the callthen please feel free to contact
Social Media Call for Subs Version
Fire and Rain – Call for Submissions
Fire and Rain – Pratik: A Magazine of Contemporary Writing Australian Poetry Edition co-curated and supported by APWT + $500 AUD cash prize for winning entry
Asia Pacific Writers and Translators (APWT) and Pratik: A Magazine of Contemporary Writing invite submissions for Fire and Rain – a special edition of the magazine focused on Australian poetry. The theme acts as a kicking off point and is open to interpretation – we seek previously unpublished poetry that evokes a sense of Australia – either geographically, spiritually, politically, linguistically, culturally, or otherwise. This edition celebrates the diversity of Australian poetic perspectives and voices – we welcome submissions from both established and emerging poets, indigenous writers and LGBTIQ+ community. We are open to experimental forms and multiple submissions are permitted. Pratik published quarterly is edited by the world-renowned Himalayan poet, Yuyutsu Sharma in Kathmandu and has become a significant international platform of creative writing. You can read more about the call and enter via our Submittable Page is open to financial members of APWT – not a member? Join here:
close on April 1st 2022




After James Wright

                             based on last lines of Collected Poems


Birds fly at dusk

between stars, hiding.

The shore sings

of twisted iron,

creep and drift.


A white feather

waves through

the hedge, slips

down quick.


The beautiful

white nakedness

of snow.



Lavina Blossom is a painter and mixed media artist as well as a poet.  Her poems have appeared in various journals, including 3Elements Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Literary Review, The Paris Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Poemeleon, Common Ground Review, and Ekphrastic Review.  She is an Editor of Poetry for Inlandia:  a Literary Journey.  


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