Book Review: The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju by Sascha Aurora Akhtar

Book Review: The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju by Sascha Aurora Akhtar


“I have become the secret garden
Of angel kisses where baby moons
Sparkle like morello cherries in cloud trees”

Matutinal, Sascha Aurora Akhtar, The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju


The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju by Sascha Aurora Akhtar is a deep dive into a magical rabbit hole of language that will linger long after the reading is complete. Poems like Matutinal forced me into the Springtime of my mind, even on a dark winter day, and had me visualizing cherry blossoms that became so real I thought I might be able to touch them. This poem, like many others, enticed me to read it on repeat. I find a lot of her lines to have the same quality as musical refrains that burrow into my ears. Her lyrical words are sometimes punched with force and other times, laid down like petals strewn on a lawn just waiting for the reader to attend to them.


“All I want is
soft-spoken, edible like houses
made of the bread of ginger”

All I Want Is, Sascha Aurora Akhtar, The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju


This poem is an example of the many layers in Akhtar’s work. As I read, I found that I would go back to a poem and find more meaning. I’m never sure if I understand exactly what a poet is trying to convey. Perception bent through the lens of the viewer makes the experience of art unique. In these verses I immediately thought of my mother when she would tell us children “All I want is some peace and quiet!”. I’m sure that she thought that was a simple request, but in my own experience as a mother I realize it’s a tall order sometimes.

When someone verbalizes all they want, I tend to expect that it’s going to be something small and unassuming. The fact is, wants are complex. They usually rely on the cooperation of other people. Sometimes our wants conflict with each other, desire is like that. Each stanza of this poem reflects a different fact of wants until it comes down to, at the last, something simple and something the poet can actually provide without the need for others to intervene. It is a lovely surprise that first leaves the reader scratching a head, and later with an “ah-ha!” moment. So many of her poems are like this and it is a delight.


“I am not a leather rose
You are not a leaping lemon
There is a memory that has blistered
into letters on my face”

The Universal Mystique of Not-Writing, Sascha Aurora Akhtar, The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju


Earlier this year, I decided to take a holiday. This holiday would not include writing. In fact, it was decidedly about ‘not-writing’ as Akhtar describes in the title of this poem. I wandered through a medieval town on a Greek island. June heat soaked into the deepest parts of my bones. I noticed things. My eyes and mind began to write. At first I resisted and I was valiant. I committed to ‘not-writing’, to taking this break.

I wouldn’t even take my notebook in my bag, no pens to be had. The siren call of creativity is hard to resist. A notepad at the resort and an unassuming pen led me to break my vow. First I wrote a word, then a line and I’m embarrassed to admit that led to a stanza and an entire poem. I have to laugh a bit at myself, imagining that I can shut off a space so deeply ingrained in my personhood. When I read The Universal Mystique of Not-Writing, it resonated with me and I completely understood how creators are always creating, even when it appears they are not.

In reading a bit about Akhtar, I found that she credits Alice in Wonderland as having an influence on her work. As I read through her poems I felt like I was on my own wonderland journey, one of Akhtar’s creation. The tapestry of her language is rich and stacked with layers upon layers that beckon the reader to return and view them just once more. This collection is full of magic that has the ability to suspend reality and allow readers to see life from a new perspective. Billed as a book of whimsy it absolutely delivers on that promise and is a delight to read.

The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju by Sascha Aurora Akhtar is available for purchase now through The Emma Press.

About the Author

Sascha Aurora Akhtar feels deeply connected to her ancestral roots in Lancashire, South Yorkshire and Pakistan. She has three poetry collections: The Grimoire of Grimalkin (2007), 199 Japanese Names for Japanese Trees (2016), and Only Dying Sparkles (2018).

About the Press

The Emma Press is an independent publisher dedicated to producing beautiful, thought-provoking books. It was founded in 2012 by Emma Dai’an Write in Winnersh, UK, and is now based in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham.

The Emma Press publishes poetry and fiction anthologies and pamphlets for adults and for children, with a growing list of translations.