Anita Pati

Poetry reviews

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REVIEWS FOR HIDING TO NOTHING

Wasafiri 113, Spring 2023

“The humour and wit in Anita Pati’s Hiding to
Nothing could cauterise any wound and flay open
the ‘scar that smiles at nothing/where no baby hung’
()….

In all of the poems, I see the consequence of in-
creasingly hostile environments most keenly illus-
trated in the palindrome ‘Domestic’. The opening

lines read: ‘It was only the oven you couldn’t
fathom,/the angled tray not fitting its grooves/that

night in June when the burnt tower happened/hot-
white in our highrise, so scared’; the final lines of

the poem, of course, are their mirror ().

The ‘burnt tower’ refers to Grenfell tower, and even by that very
galling allusion, Pati sets up the image in our mind: the
brown body under fire, suffering material threat,
burnt almost beyond recognition, and the site of so
many other tangential institutional failings. Yet, if
we consider the lines themselves, read them aloud,
their oscillating rhythm and swelling music could
almost be that childhood lullaby or nursery rhyme
whose meaning we discovered far later. Ring a ring
o’ roses. Fitting, really, when the narrator insists ‘The
children definitely slept through it all’, where
‘definitely’ only gives the panic away ().

The form of the poem is a key to unlocking the wider metaphor
in Hiding to Nothing: left unattended, uncared for, or

silenced, the violence in our societies and commu-
nities will repeat, beget more violence.

SUNA AFSHAN

Poetry Review, Vol 112, No 3, Autumn 2022

ILLEGIBLE BODIES
Helen Mort, The Illustrated Woman, Chatto & Windus, £12.99,
ISBN 9781784743222
Clare Shaw, Towards a General Theory of Love, Bloodaxe, £10.99,
ISBN 9781780376042
Anita Pati, Hiding to Nothing, Pavilion Poetry, £9.99
ISBN 9781800854826

April Yee on lyric nakedness, body doubles and the slicing of identity


Children, or rather the absence of them, are at the centre of Anita
Pati’s debut. Hiding to Nothing encircles two types of illegibility:
being brown in a majority-white country and being a childless
woman, through choice or biology. In ‘Greenface’, Pati expands on
Toni Morisson’s novel The Bluest Eye and its depiction of racialised
beauty and existential envy in an American binary black-and-white
context; in Pati’s work, to be British Asian is not only to be non-white
but also to be (perceived as) non-native. As American poet Divya Victor
does in her 2021 collection Curb, Pati shows that brownness inhabits
a space not between whiteness and blackness, but outside.


One day the townsfolk ate the white meat of her irises
with a dessert fork, Guernsey butter and garlic grubs.
Plus chips and curry sauce.
[…]
Such good spoken English!


Startling, visceral lines show how identity is sliced and digested by
white British natives, with half-gestures toward brownness (‘curry
sauce’) reined in by the staidly English (‘chips’). An anonymous
white person praises the brown person’s language mastery, an actual
requirement of citizenship in the UK. The poem itself is printed in
grey, as if it is aware of its own precarity and potential to disappear.
Pati plays with typeface throughout the collection, allowing poems
to transcend the boundaries of the book with an energy that often
eludes British poetry. Among these is ‘Bloodfruit’, a series that remixes
interviews with women who endured difficult (non)motherhood
journeys with nursery rhymes and a cocktail menu; these letters are

san-serif, as if all clothing has been stripped away. Pati’s work indirectly
answers Sandeep Parmar’s essay ‘An Uncommon Language’, which
interrogates the dearth of literature on miscarriage: ‘Does the expression
of this particular grief rely on a borrowed tongue, more so than any
particular love, or especial happiness, grief’s necessary antecedents?’
In ‘Bloodfruit’, the grief is so immense that it requires a multiplicity
of tongues, each belonging to a woman taking control of what is seen.

April Yee is a National Book Critics Circle Emerging Critics Fellow and the
University of East Anglia’s Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholar
.

Under the Radar magazine, Autumn/Winter 2022

Anita Pati’s Hiding to Nothing bangs the door open and enters with a shout. The panic throughout this magnificent debut collection is palpable. The first short poem of the collection ‘Train Triolet (16.46 to Brighton)’ announces itself forcefully and lets us (the reader, especially the white reader) know that
this isn’t going to be an easy ride. Pati is right to make us feel uncomfortable— … This is a brilliant and inventive collection – one I will definitely keep coming back to.” Julia Webb

Alchemy Spoon, issue 7, Summer/Autumn ’22

“This debut collection is a welcome follow-on from the poet’s pamphlet,

Dodo Provocateur. Pati explores the legacy of empire and experiences of

being othered, both in terms of race and as a woman, on subsequent

generations.

“This lyrical first collection explores ideas around self-worth and

unbelonging in dazzling brave and powerful poems using a multitude of

innovative and exciting forms.” Mary Mulholland

The Guardian – the best recent poetry review roundup by Rebecca Tamás , May ’22

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/may/06/the-best-recent-poetry-review-roundup

Hiding to Nothing by Anita Pati

Hiding to Nothing by Anita Pati (Pavilion, £9.99)
Pati’s excoriating debut collection is one of painful yet necessary release: “my chest frays open, / bivalved wires spitting, bloodish”. These vivid poems explore suppression and silencing – the violence of empire, the toxicity of whiteness, the pressures placed upon the female body. At the centre is a long sequence, Bloodfruit, which draws on anonymous interviews to trace the shame and distress brought about by infertility, baby loss and difficult motherhoods. These confronting, polyvocal dialogues ring with the energy of long-held suffering, finally released into a shared language – “I don’t deserve to be happy; I don’t deserve a family … / Too fat to be a mum. / Too poor to be a mum. / Too ugly to be a mum. / Too old to be a mum. / Too fucked to be a mum”. “When you’re a white / woman with a brown baby, you’re / a slag; when you’re a brown woman / with a pale baby, you’re the nanny.” This visceral, affecting and politically astute collection announces a courageous new voice in British poetry. (The Guardian)

@theauthorisdead aka Juliano Zaffino

theauthorisdead

8 July 2022
Anita Pati, Hiding to Nothing (poetry collection)
*
“You’re such a violent little pony, under the knife again.” Anita Pati’s Hiding to Nothing is a poetry collection exciting as much for its variety as for its idiosyncratic flourishes of language, imagery and rhythm, imbued in turn with darkness and ferocity, grace and vulnerability. Girlhood is animated accordingly; “the reek of a childhood seeps through these walls”, and “The girl who cracked / mirrors turned heads: / they fried hers / with their mercurial backchat. / Times she was invisible and / times the black ghost.” The legacy of empire on the mind and spirit of individuals and communities is writ large; such poems as ‘Domestic’, a back-to-front-mirror poem about domestic violence with references to Grenfell, and the ‘Bloodfruit’ sequence, are especially striking. And then there’s the fragility, the impossibility of a stable self: “I know I lapse; please keep trying.” “She bumped into the air void where her self should be.” This is further exacerbated by the playfulness with which Pati captures emotional exhaustion and honesty, as dark as it is funny: “Tis pity ‘tis a chore to feel this every day”; “#some days I just surrender to the pit; insanity or marathons aren’t me.” This is a startling debut, a polyphonic testament to the lives of women on the margins, and how the body is ever in relation to all that comes before, personally and communally; but eventually Pati pushes through those feelings, the sense when “Days seem shapeshifters / kidding me through dustsheets. / The world is a vacant house / with no holiday”, and into something like hope.

Poetry Book Society Bulletin summer 2022 issue by Shash Trevett

From Katrina Naomi’s June 2022 ‘short & sweet’ newsletter

Anita Pati’s debut collection is just out. Hiding to Nothing is an inventive, highly original collection, fizzing with barely concealed anger at the violence of Empire, of racism, of patriarchy & of how brown women’s bodies are treated. This excerpt, from the ‘Bloodfruit’ sequence, draws on interviews with many women:

‘I’m unprecious cargo. Not a real woman. My body’s betrayed me.
Q. Are we only worthy when we’ve procreated?’

Hiding to Nothing is bold & rather brilliant.

This is a comprehensive list of reviews and testimonies to date taken from Liverpool University Press’s website:

Description

Anita Pati’s debut collection, Hiding to Nothing, explores the destabilising effects of violence, particularly empire’s aftermath, on a psyche. Threaded with internal dialogue, this multi-layered work witnesses how unbelonging can unsettle perceptions of the brown female body within an unwelcoming, even hostile, environment.
From ‘exotic’ dodos punished for not being doves to Greenface, on whom blonde girls birth natterjack toads, marginal presences tell their stories. Hiding to Nothing suggests that complex and damaging legacies in all their forms can create shockwaves that reverberate over a lifetime, stopping lives from reaching their full potential. And the trauma experienced through centuries of colonial history continues to be embodied and enacted.
These perceptions of body-image and self-worth are picked up in the central documentary sequence, Bloodfruit, which is based on interviews with women. Bloodfruit gives voice to the less heard narratives of infertility and difficult trajectories towards becoming, or not becoming, a ‘mother’. Here, the often-fraught notions of womanhood and motherhood are also shown to feed into ideas on who is able to mother.
Pati uses an original, lyrical approach towards the ambiguities and ambivalences that cloud our decisions. Ultimately, ambient aggressions towards our own and other bodies can only be made good by breaking the cycle. Pati unravels compacted pain but those looking for easy answers or redemption will find no compromise here.

‘Vivid, polyvocal and excoriating, Pati’s poems find an exquisite musicality and a deep sorcery of imagery and momentum. Hiding to Nothing is a humane, fierce, original and uncompromising debut from a major new voice in British poetry.’
Fiona Benson

‘Anita Pati’s work will resonate with anyone who has personal experience of a difficult journey to parenthood. She manages to encapsulate the pain of infertility, loss and prematurity. Pati lays bare the intensity of the emotions involved, the damage to self-esteem and the complexities of the relationship with our bodies. Her poetry is both beautiful and haunting.’
Kate Brian, Fertility Network UK and Journalist and Author

‘Despite the gravity of its subject matter, Hiding to Nothing is a collection of wit, playfulness and a wonderfully slippery syntax which says one thing and suggests much else. With its linguistic density and intertextuality, play and soundplay, I have read nothing like it – a book of beautifully controlled defiance.’
Sasha Dugdale

‘If the body of a woman could speak, this is the poetry it would write. Raw and filled to the brim with grief, anger, beauty, rage, terror, longing, love and blood. Anita Pati’s body of poetry is poetry of the body, and it stinks of the truth.’
Jody Day, Psychotherapist, author & founder of Gateway Women

Hiding to Nothing is a hard-hitting, lyrical exploration of attitudes towards women, particularly black women, and how those attitudes shape lives. […] Anita Pati writes with uncompromising sensitivity and an forensic eye.’
Emma Lee, London Grip

‘Pati’s excoriating debut collection is one of painful yet necessary release: “my chest frays open, / bivalved wires spitting, bloodish”. These vivid poems explore suppression and silencing – the violence of empire, the toxicity of whiteness, the pressures placed upon the female body. […] These confronting, polyvocal dialogues ring with the energy of long-held suffering, finally released into a shared language. […] This visceral, affecting and politically astute collection announces a courageous new voice in British poetry.’Rebecca Tamás, The Guardian

‘Anita Pati’s Hiding to Nothing [from] Pavilion Poetry is unforgettable, giving voice to silences of many kinds, esp[ecially] those persisting around infertility. Her poems are compelling, fierce, playful & her approach always unexpected.’ – Fiona Larkin

‘Hiding to Nothing is an inventive, highly original collection, fizzing with barely concealed anger at the violence of Empire, of racism, of patriarchy & of how brown women’s bodies are treated. This excerpt, from the ‘Bloodfruit’ sequence, draws on interviews with many women:
‘I’m unprecious cargo. Not a real woman. My body’s betrayed me.
Q. Are we only worthy when we’ve procreated?’
Hiding to Nothing is bold & rather brilliant.’
Katrina Naomi, Katrina’s Poetry News

‘Anita Pati’s debut collection utilises form and language to devastating effect. The central section is an elegy for all the “neverborns” and the women who were mothers all too briefly. In other poems, uncompromising in scope and content, women’s bodies take centre stage: are shown as being overly scrutinised, found lacking, raped or put under the knife. Channelling a myriad of voices, Pati speaks commandingly for those who, though suffering, continue to see “only stars”.’
Shash Trevett, Poetry Book Society Bulletin

REVIEWS FOR DODO PROVOCATEUR

Poetry London, review of Dodo Provocateur by Becky Varley-Winter (Jan 2021)

Times Literary Supplement review by Camille Ralphs (Nov 2019)

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/critical-friends/

‘Dodo Provocateur is a verbal tintinnabulation: “Why gobble pebbles big as nutmegs to temper your guts?” But the leonine rhymes, alliterations and spondaic rhythms of ‘An Unborn Child Wonders if it’s Worth it?’ are the best proof of Pati’s musicality:

“Lizards and ladies stoned in deserts,

rows of heads popped by rocks in red little shocks?

Oh poppet, the tongue that cocks will cop it.”

Camille Ralphs, The Times Literary Supplement

Alice Hiller review (Nov 2019)

https://alicehiller.wordpress.com/2019/11/05/radicalising-the-feeling-world-of-a-poem-alice-hiller-on-why-new-work-by-vahni-capildeo-eugene-ostashevsky-and-anita-pati-is-calling-the-english-language-to-accou/

Sphinx Review by Mat Riches (Dec 2019)

https://sphinxreview.co.uk/index.php/opoi-reviews-2019/899-anita-pati-dodo-provocateur

The North review by Ian McMillan (Aug 2020)

Dodo Provocateur reviewed in Poetry London, winter 2021

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