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A Roll of the Dice that hits home every time

A Roll of the Dice that hits home every time

To be prolific and to remain original in one’s writing is not the blessing every poet or writer enjoys. In that vein, Mona Dash is a few of these rare, gifted poets and writers. In the last five years, she has raced with the non-stop outputs in such a hurry; it makes us feel time works in slow motion for her while we are still caught up in the regular time phase!

I still vividly remember some poems from ‘A Certain Way’. She is a master storyteller and so smoothly takes us through one of her poems as an Indian woman walking into a pub in a sari. Well, what follows is something memorable you should read. While she can handle such a narrative streak easily, she can also move with grace in purely musical poems, as in one of her poems: the falling rain is a device used through which she transports us from one land to another and delights us with nostalgia, making even our displacement a thrill.

Let us lounge with Mona Dash: an award-winning author of ‘A Roll of the Dice: A Story of Loss, Love and Genetics’, ‘Let Us Look Elsewhere’, ‘A Certain Way’, ‘Untamed Heart’, and ‘Dawn-drops’. She is published in international journals and more than 25 anthologies. A graduate in Telecoms Engineering, she holds an MBA and a MA in Creative Writing (distinction).

Poet’s helping hand:

This poem uses an image of intersecting Venn diagrams to map identity, shaped as it is by the different roles we assume in life. When we inhabit one role in life, the layers of implications reveal we cannot be another. These identities are not contradictory in their truest sense, but they are made to be due to the single gaze that has become a norm. We add to our own sense of self, and our quest is to find this intersectionality in ourselves, and even if a pinpoint, it is the truth. It is all about breaking boundaries.

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Q

When your son Krish Misra, now a successful child actor (‘Silverpoint’ BBC), asked me why the cover I had chosen for your collection, ‘A Certain Way’, I published to introduce you to the West, shows a lion roaring at the lock on a closed-door I had my answer for it. But let us hear from you how that collection (published for Skylark Publications UK) explores your themes?

A

And thank you for publishing my first collection in Britain. It was such a lovely moment when you announced the Word Masala Debut Award and then the news of its publication at an event in the House of Lords!

The key themes I explore in my collection are identity and belonging; and how, whether we like it, our personal identities are shaped by race and gender. My poems explore migration and attitudes towards migrants, both in home and adopted countries, feminism and the manifestation of women's roles in current society.

I like to challenge the tropes and emphasise the right to be heard. And I do this not through aggression or a one-sided factual view but through a broader canvas of poetry, imagination and beauty. Then there is, of course, love and poems about that elusive love which is deliverance. I think my poems have relevance for everyone, and hence I hope more people buy the collection.

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The ever-shifting lines between belonging and not belonging
Q

Ever since you received the Word Masala Award in 2016 and I published your first collection in the West, you have rolled your dices – sorry for the pun on your later book – perfectly. Take us through your acclaimed publications and successes since then.

A

Indeed, it has been a busy few years since the award and ‘A Certain Way’ in 2017. My memoir, ‘A Roll of the Dice: A Story of Loss, Love and Genetics’, was published by Linen Press UK in 2019. The publisher described it as a positive, moving story that is also a thrilling page-turner.

At its heart, it is a very personal story of motherhood but is also about complex genetics, the amazing NHS, spirituality, migration and the power of love. It won the Eyelands International award for memoir and has received very positive reviews.

My first short story collection, ‘Let Us Look Elsewhere’, was published by Dahlia Books UK in 2021. Many of the stories in the collection have been listed in competitions such as Bath, Bristol, Fish, Leicester Writes, Asian Writer and the SI Leeds Literary Award.

Last year was exciting since I was commissioned to write a short story for BBC Radio 4, and ‘Twenty-Five Years’ was broadcast in November 2021.

I am a member of The Whole Kahani, a British South Asian Writers Collective, and our third anthology ‘Tongues and Bellies’ was published by Linen Press UK in 2021.

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Q

Your mother is an award-winning poet; your son is stealing hearts as an actor; you are an unstoppable, prolific writer. Where are you three heading to henceforth?

A

That is very flattering, thank you! The three of us are in very different stages of the journey, and as you know, this whole creative process is a journey. A long journey where there are no guarantees of anything!

My mother has a lot of published work to her credit – nine poetry collections, three prose, two books of essays in Odia, one English anthology of poems, and 15 translated works from English and Bengali. Her writing is unique, the strength being her beautiful language and magic realism. Despite that, I feel she hasn’t received the acknowledgement she deserves, so I would love to see her lifelong work be awarded in a big way.

My son enjoys acting and has acted professionally in two shows. ‘Silverpoint’, which has recently been released, is a very fast-paced science fiction show for a younger audience, and he plays a very fun character with a great deal of energy. I hope he will continue to enjoy acting, and get to do some really interesting roles and achieve greater heights. He must now focus on his schoolwork!

As for me, I am working on a new novel. I also have a bunch of poems – many of which have been published in journals and anthologies – enough for a slim collection. I am entering the tough phase of sending manuscripts off and hope to get that elusive interest from publishers!

It is a very hard journey, and no one knows the destination, or even if there will be a destination, so the only thing to do is continue focussing on the craft and make oneself better, and better.

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On exploring our hyphenated existence through poetry

Yogesh Patel MBE runs Skylark Publications UK as well as the non-profit Word Masala project to promote South Asian diaspora literature.

His work has appeared at The Royal Society of Literature and Stanford University and the Writers Mosaic of The Royal Literary Fund. Published in numerous journals and anthologies; and with films and LPs under his belt, his collection of poems, The Rapids, was recently published by ‘The London Magazine’. By profession, he is a qualified optometrist and an accountant.

In this regular series for ‘iGlobal’, he profiles Global Indian poets from around the world.

*Info: Mona Dash

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