Morry Ajao

Review: Poems of Encounter in Dipika Mukherjee’s Dialect of Distant Harbors


Cover of "Dialect of Distant Harbors" by Dipika Mukherjee
“Tell me the landscape in which you live and I will tell you who you are,” suggests philosopher José Ortega y Gasset. Based on her collection Dialect of Distant Harbors, Dipika Mukherjee would agree, I believe, but “landscapes” here would have to be plural, because in addition to geographical landscapes, these poems embrace multiple settings, languages, weather, generations, relationships, and traditions and rituals, both spiritual and secular. Through experiences both lived and dreamed, her poems invite the reader to discover beauty, danger, and heartbreak by exploring new worlds and revealing heart-stopping moments of intimacy. The harbors she describes are distant but never forgotten, both welcoming and estranging.

Although they are not named or numbered, we can see by the choice of extra spacing between each group of five to seven poems in the table of contents that Mukherjee has created seven sections for this collection. Throughout the book, each section is separated by a graceful lotus mandala, similar to those that adorn sacred texts and women’s hands hennaed for special occasions. These seven symbolic pauses serve as a constant reminder of the overarching message of healing, resilience, and rebirth in all the poems carefully gathered here. They also invite the reader to pay special attention to seven central themes: generational roots, the misogyny and physical torture women suffer, the passing of time, the horrific violence of racial and cultural hate, mortality, migration and exile, and the value of travel.

Review: Poems of Encounter in Dipika Mukherjee’s Dialect of Distant Harbors

The Rediscovery of Bodies


For Rachel, the plague ended in May of 2021, on the day she again touched a stranger.

This stranger appeared when Rachel entered the clothing optional area of Dessert Springs. The name was a pun, the resort’s sign featuring a cartoon girl reclining in a banana split boat. Only two of the nine hot tubs were occupied, both by white women naked except for full suits of what appeared to be rockabilly tattoos. Rachel and her wife SJ, both one month vaccinated, started filling their stock tubs. Then, as Rachel walked past the women on her way to the outdoor shower, they laughed.

The Rediscovery of Bodies

Translation: Excerpt from In Anne Frank’s House


Translated from the Arabic by ADDIE LEAK.

Piece appears below in both English and Arabic.


A countryside landscape with grassy hills and mountains in the distance.

Translator’s Note:

When In Anne Frank’s House (Al-Mutawassit, 2020) was published, it was met with near radio silence—a strange reaction to a new book by a celebrated author. In an interview I conducted with Hassan in fall 2021, she suggested that this reaction was one of fear. The fact that many in the Arab world conflate Judaism with Zionism—and Israeli oppression—means that writing about a young Jewish martyr like Anne Frank was automatically taboo, and any response to Hassan’s book would be wading into murky waters. Hassan was accused of writing about Anne Frank to court international favor, and the memoir was automatically labeled as political. In my later attempts to locate a publisher for the English translation, I came across a similar hesitation and mistrust—concern, among other things, that an author from an Arab country might not treat Anne Frank with the respect she deserves.

Translation: Excerpt from In Anne Frank’s House

June 2023 Poetry Feature: New Poems by Our Contributors


Table of Contents: 
—R. Zamora Linmark, “Under the Influence”
—Kevin Craft, “Basin and Range” and “Or Later We Become Our Parents”
—Cole W. Williams “Gombe”


Under the Influence
By R. Zamora Linmark

After watering the baby navel orange tree
rosemary and sage I left the garden before 
the rain returned and sped to Ala Moana mall
after my brother told me nothing beats retail
shopping under the influence of grief
especially when everything from Spring must go
so wail flail your arms wildly like a child drowning
stomp in your black leather sandals for Gethsemane
but for Pete’s sake please pedicure first
you want your sorrow to be of first rate honey
equated with Achilles and not Manchego cheese-
like heels then hit Zara and buy that slim-fitted
charcoal-gray pants with matching coat
you’ve been dreaming of that varsity jock
letterman jacket with green sleeves and decal
in Greek one size smaller if available
a perfect motivator to wake up very early
in the morning load the Biki bike with your inflatable
board and oars and balancing between choppy
waters and gusty winds paddle from one end
of the beach to the next just a little after sunrise.


June 2023 Poetry Feature: New Poems by Our Contributors