i was recently introduced to the Poetry of Shiksha Dheda, who i stumbled upon on the Twitterer. She graciously offered to send me a copy of her book, ‘Washed away’ and i offered to share a little bit of her story here. Her poetry is definitely worth a look and i hope a number of you will buy her book, which is available online. But first let me allow Shiksha to introduce herself to us:
Shiksha Dheda is a South African of Indian descent. She uses writing to express her OCD and depression roller-coaster ventures, but mostly to avoid working on her master’s degree. Sometimes, she dabbles in photography, painting, and baking lopsided layered cakes.
Her writing has been featured (on/forthcoming) in Wigleaf, Passages North, Brittle Paper, Door is a jar and Epoch Press amongst others. She is the Pushcart nominated author of Washed Away (Alien Buddha Press, 2021). Her chapbook ‘We are all pretty bizarre’ is forthcoming from The Daily Drunk.
Washed Away is a collection of poetry (lineated poetry, shape poetry, visual poetry and prose poetry), that encompasses 57 poems that centre my experiences with OCD and depression.
The collection is fragmented into three stages. In these stages, I have tried to outline the stages or progression of my disorder as paralleled to the progression of the collection.
As the reader travels through the collection, they’ll be travelling alongside me on my mental health journey. These stages have also been likened to the stages of washing one’s hands i.e. soap lathering, rinsing and drying. This is in part due to me being a compulsive hand washer and in part, due to the emphasis of handwashing during the pandemic.
This is how the title of the collection was born; from the process of washing and being washed away. Not only do I feel that I wash my hands, but there are days when I feel washed away by my disorder(s). Days when I feel that I have to rebuild or remould myself from being disintegrated or washed away.
This collection is available for purchase on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09H95KQKJ. One of the pieces have also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize!
Some words about Washed Away
What i really enjoyed about Shiksha’s book and the poems of Washed Away, is that she has recorded them so that you can listen to the poet sharing her own poems.
With the theme of struggle [with OCD and depression] there is so much that will resonate with different readers in different ways, and being set in the midst of Pandemic in particular – where so many of us have been faced with different mental health challenges, there really is something for everyone.
One poem that stood out for me was The warrior:
Setting out to win the battle,
I leave along with me,
myself and I.
The fight is vigorous and brutal.
I lash back with violence;
retaliate with anger.
I fight alongside myself,
against myself, with myself,
for myself and inside of myself.
The battlefield is appalling
– my blood is spilled.
All my energy wasted.
Ill-fate is inevitable
as irony rides around the arena
like a fierce stallion.
I alone am the victor.
I alone am the
Shiksha has a profound talent of being able to say so much in so few words [i tend to struggle in the opposite direction] as observed in this gut-wrenching piece called Heart[less]:
It felt as though someone was ripping my heart
– straight out of my chest.
Every single night.
Only to haphazardly put it back.
Always in the wrong way.
Her poems are of varying lengths and styles [she writes some stunning shape poems] and again her skill of saying all of the things in almost none of the words can be strongly evidenced in this tiny little hint of a poem which just lands with the full force of its weight and sits with you long after you have turned the page:
Think I fell in love with the feeling of
i mean, that’s it. That’s the poem. And yet those of us who have faced or are presently staring into the mirror of loneliness will resonate deeply. That one landed forcefully, given my present circumstances. Grateful that someone like Shiksha is willing to display aspects of her own pain as a gift or medicine to the rest of us.
There are many more examples, but i would prefer you got hold of a copy of Shiksha’s book [which you can over here] and read them for yourself, as well as taking some time to listen to them arriving in her own voice over here.
Sudha Balagopal (author of ‘Things I Can’t Tell Amma’) had this to say:
In her stunning debut, Washed Away, Shiksha Dheda has firmly established herself as a poet who can handle personal and delicate subject material with honesty, sensitivity and skill. The words in this book delve deep into the inner workings of her mind, journeying into the yearning and the confusion of mental disorder. The poems in this collection are a must-read both for the subject matter and for the sheer artistry. Shiksha Dheda is a poet to watch.
To follow Shiksha and stay up to date with her latest offerings, you can find her on the Twitterer @ShikshaWrites.
You can also find her at https://shikshadheda.wixsite.com/writing
And on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/shikshapoetry/
Take a look and a listen, buy the book, and let me know which poem [or poems] jumped out most at you!
And if you enjoyed Shiksha Dheda’s words, make sure you check out those of Ekta Somera and the incredible ‘Made in Poetry’