The train has always been a symbol of adventure, discovery, magic as it elegantly snakes its way down mountains and forests, across mystical landscapes. The poems in this book eloquently capture the spirit of train journeys undertaken and imagined, in a most memorable way. Amitabh Mitra has chosen well.
Poet, Translator, Filmmaker, Politician
Trainstorm is a collection of poems from poets all over the world. The book was created with the concept that there is no actual real train but there is a train running continuously and surreptitiously within. This is the train of encountering our first love and thereafter many loves. This is a train, a poet feels but can express in images and not in words. This is the train of the Trainman in Matrix who tells Neo, here in the train station, he is the God. Trainstorm is this revolution, I have tried to create, a reason is perhaps an extinct word. There is a storm approaching much like the Chambal storms at Gwalior. We continue to live in such Trainstorms.
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Splinters of a Mirage Dawn , Anthology of Migrant Poetry of South Africa makes it to National NIHSS Book Award
At a glittering function held at Parktown, Johannesburg, our book Splinters of a Mirage Dawn, Anthology of Migrant Poetry of South Africa immortalized itself in the section ‘Edited Fiction Volume’ as the only one shortlisted. Dr. Naomi Nkealah received the citations on behalf of the book and its contributor poets. The Hon Minister for Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, gave away the honors. This recognition seals the achievement of creative and poetic voices of millions who came to South Africa, becoming part of it, participating shoulder to shoulder in developing, ethnic understanding and integrating within the contemporary African poetry movement.
From the Editorial:
There is a war within and there is a war without. Fighting such wars in a life threatened by barbed wires and milestones, ‘health’ sometimes is an unheard word. The bullet only grazes the subterranean cortex, fibrous scars spring out trying to patch widened surfaces. An African Bush War creeps within surreptitiously. The Somali Spaza shop owner sells bread through apertures from his shack; yet living is a tight rope walk on an immigrant value. The war in Mogadishu continues to beckon him from where he once escaped for a better living.
Kole Odutula, internationally acclaimed Nigerian poet and author of ‘Diaspora and Imagined Nationalities’ in his review of the book in African Writers.com, aptly titled ‘Immigrants, Irritants, Relocations & Dislocations in Text’
I hope the “war within and the war without” alluded to by Amitabh Mitra, who I am not scared of referring to as one of the immigrants-in-chief, in his editorial, would one day have a resolution and all children of African and Asian continents can live in harmony as the pigeons live in nature.
Renowned Zimbabwean poet Chirikure Chirikure writes:
One’s emotions rise up and down, as one moves from one poet to the other. Some pieces make you drop a tear, while others make you chuckle through their ability to make a sad story very much light-hearted. This anthology is a solid step in the overdue journey towards a world where we all sing from the same page, in our varied, individual voices.
Ben Williams writes in Sunday Times, October 2013 about this book, mentioning the poetry of Adebola Fawole, titled, ‘Times and Places’
Graham Vivian Lancaster
Philani Amadeus Nyoni
Renos Nicos Spanoudes
Sarah Rowland Jones
Tendai R. Mwanaka
Tsitsi S.A. Sachikonye
Splinters of a Mirage Dawn is jointly edited by Amitabh Mitra and Naomi Nkealah. It has the art on Migration by the internationally acclaimed Indian Artist Arpana Caur. A Poets Printery Publication
Trainstorm: An International Anthology of Railway Poems and Drawings
Submissions are invited for consideration by Editor/ Designer – Amitabh Mitra. Only work chosen by the Editor will be published and may be subjected to mutually agreed edits. Format of book is Matte Finish, Soft Cover printed on 90gsm paper. The mission of this book is to get train poetry and art out into the world. Circulation will be worldwide mainly through Amazon.com, Amazon.in and Flipkart. Books will also be available from our Poetry Printery site via Paypal. Please take into consideration the thoughts on train journeys below but you do not have to be literal about it. Both written and visual work solicited. The printing will be greyscale with cover and back in colour.
Publication Year – 2016
Publisher – Poets Printery, South Africa / Cyberwit.net India
Trains remind us of a colonial era in India and Africa when station masters, guards and train drivers were of British origins. A vast network of railway lines and train stations also brought many real life stories later made into magnum opus film productions. We are also reminded of trains to Auschwitz, Poland and Gulags in the former Soviet Union. Happiness and extreme trauma, both are associated with train and train journeys.
I welcome my fellow poets and artists in joining me in this incredible adventure – Trainstorm
All poets and visual artists are welcome to submit poems and drawings regarding trains and train journeys
Submissions to Amitabh Mitra at firstname.lastname@example.org with a 50 word bio
Last Date for Submissions 30 November 2015
It was a day like today – dark and rainy, when I received this beautiful book and read it from cover to cover sitting by the window, all the while telling myself I wouldn’t read any more ’cause it was so suffused with images that I wanted to savor one by one but another part of me kept wanting to go through it all at once and return later for those. It was like watching a train go past at night – images flashing one after another – purani dilli, Gwalior, Bhutan. A few days later, I gifted it to a writer friend visiting from Delhi who has a special dil ka rishta with Bhutan. He writes today that he liked it also for ‘some footloose Cohen-ish sentiment’ – good job with this one, Amitabh!
Shefali Tripathi Mehta is a Bangalore-based independent writer. She writes interactive e-learning course-ware for a living and stories to make living worthwhile. She has worked as sub-editor, ad copywriter, content analyst and marketing communications professional. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and online journals. She is the author of What Were They Thinking!, a book on observational humour and is the co-author and translator of a coffee table book with Gulzar. She also writes on social issues in the Sunday Herald and on disability awareness in journals. Her poems have been published in Muse India and the Reading Hour.
I have been reading Tikuli’s book of poems, Collection of Chaos. I shall start by saying, these poems are staccato of images, shot repeatedly at close quarters, they penetrate and reemerge in hue of words and distances. I take it to the hospital and pick up a few poems after having repaired gunshot wounds. They talk to me in different times among many differences. I believe, her poems didn’t need a foreword, or a mentor as she explains in the development of her poems. If contemporary Indo-English poetry scene needs to be realized and felt, there was never any need for an evolution; poetry exists sublimely in the sociopolitical environs of India.
I love the book, its untitled poems and imagery distinct of an Indian aroma within a life and a city living within itself. Tikuli’s poems are crafted for an immediate resonance. She builds up words on images and its these images tumbles down in ripples or an unknown rain happening on a cloudburst afternoon at Delhi.
One of her long poems reminded me of the British Anthology of Poetry of the Tube Train- Poems on the Underground. Tikuli has written on the Delhi metro. I do wish that I could have Delhi poets celebrating the underground metro.
On the far side,
Alone on her seat
In the fast moving metro
He spots her….
Her short poems are like a swish of a brush, a streak of a color on a blank canvas
Canvas of snow
A raven adds color
Yin and Yang
But then again remaining incomplete, replete with minimal words is what I believe life and poetry is
Poems dwell in
Of the mind
Thinking of Ayn Rand, I ask, where does the mind dwell
I remember Pritish Nandy in one of Tikuli’s poem
a poetic hybridity
Nandy’s 1979 published book, ‘A Stranger called I’, he too writes
It has been raining since morning and
Carol King is blowing my mind since then….
Another beautiful poem conjuring the old Delhi skies that I love so much in hesitant images, hesitant recollection….
Yet another citrus night.
A sliced lemon garnish
In the tequila sky.
Tikuli ‘s book Collection of Chaos is color crowded in stillness, these are poems merging in absolute reverberating horizons. At a day’s end, they talk of belief, each of them creating numerous skies.
Amitabh Mitra is a poet, artist and a medical doctor based at East London, South Africa. Extensively published, Amitabh continues living in corridors and spaces irretrievably from his home town of Gwalior.
Tikuli Brought up in Delhi in a family of liberal educationists Tikuli is a mother of two sons. She is also a blogger and author. Some of her short stories and poems have appeared in print and in online journals and literary magazines including Le Zaparougue, MiCROW 8, Troubadour21, The Smoking Book (Poets Wear Prada Press, US), The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Mnemosyne Literary Journal, Women’s Web. Some of her print publications include poems in Guntur National Poetry Festival Anthology and much acclaimed Chicken Soup For The Indian Romantic Soul (Westland). Her work has also been featured on websites related to gender issues and child sexual abuse. Her debut poetry book Collection of Chaos can be bought from all online book sellers.
As India and Pakistan celebrate their 69th Year of Independence, Amitabh Mitra talks to foremost Pakistani poet and writer Nayyara Rahman about love, life, chasing passions, poetry and indulging in it by the Pakistani youth of today. Nayyara lives in the beautiful city of Karachi, she visits Delhi often and her poems on Delhi have been published in Dilli, An Anthology of Women Poets of Delhi, Edited by Semeen Ali.
1. Dilli is a city to which you are joined with memories and belief. This familiarity evokes the beauty and the splendor of a common culture, India and Pakistan. As a young poet joined so articulately to both these countries, do you believe, young women which this book represents, fuse their emotions, loving and living, irrespective of our boundaries and differences?
I believe they do.
I have been following up on the interviews, the reviews Dilli has received. Even without knowing the poets of Dilli in person, I certainly feel there is a strong commonality, and some very deeply felt and shared values.
2. Tell us about Karachi, where you were born. Karachi is at the helm of South Asian Literary and Art Creativity. I wish, someday I can come to Karachi and bask in the beauty of its history, people and life in general. What is present scene of Pakistani Poets writing in English in Karachi?
I hope you come to Karachi soon too!
Whether it’s still politically correct to call Karachi a port city (It has expanded to so much more than that!) I am not sure. But its past as a port city has had a great contribution, I feel, to the flavor and quality of Literature that has come out of it. I am quite sure we are the country’s most diverse and “globalized” city, where ethnicities, religions, hereditary vocations, poverty and wealth are juxtaposed and interdependent. For instance, when people hear of the “Islamic Republic Of Pakistan”, they do not realize that Pakistan’s first capital was Karachi. And amongst its architects, Karachi counts a much-revered Hindu Mayor, a Zoroastrian industrialist/philanthropist, and a Jewish Builder whose pre-partition buildings are still in place. Something else I hope you find in your visit to Karachi is that while the present and future walk hand in hand, the past doesn’t walk away. You can feel it in Saddar, a commercial hub, where buildings from the time of the Raj are still occupied, still flourishing. This doesn’t deter the business of the enclosed Mobile Phone Market nearby. You can feel it as you stroll in the Arts Council of Pakistan. Where the future of literature, music and theatre unfolds whose walls are still fragrant with the 1960s and 1970s. It’s a wonderful, comforting feeling.
There is a debate on whether commercialization overshadows culture in Karachi. But I feel the pace, the bias towards industry, the historical claim on this city are just some of the things that add to the variety of art forms and the almost biological bond we have with it. In Karachi’s unquiet, urban rush, it’s difficult to spot the lonesome, leisurely artist. But the same rush compels people to internalize art in their lives in some form or the other. So although everyone is not artistic, art finds its way, everywhere and to everyone in Karachi.
The present scene of poets in English in Karachi—they’re active. The Second Floor, T2F hosts open-mic sections which encourage young, mostly unpublished poets to express themselves. Several times each year, the Arts Council organizes book-launching ceremonies for young and established poets, and to celebrate the work of litterateurs.These are in all languages.
We are also host to the annual Karachi Literature Festival, which of course, includes poetry. In addition to all of this, there are also private literary sessions in which poets collect to read, write and improve on their poetry.
3. How do you perceive Pakistani Writings in English in the context of cross culture changing and increasing globalization?
Most of the Pakistani Writing in English I have read is from the diaspora, or authors based in Pakistan with a significant part of their lives spent abroad. That does a few things. First, depending on the maturity and objectivity of the authors, it brings balance to their outlook. And introduces a “plural” viewpoint in their writing. They can relate better to the increasingly globalized culture that is permeating geography. They introduce the Pakistani reader to things he or she would not know of otherwise, and conversely, introduce their international readership to another face of Pakistan.
Having a finger on the pulse of globalization is something the Pakistani Writer in English already does.
The second thing it has done has carved a niche for Pakistani Writing in English. If we approach publishing as an industry, I am sure books in Urdu and other national languages will do better in terms of volume. But not in terms of revenue, branding or global sales. And a big reason for this (in my opinion) is that writing in English is seen as something for the elite. While this does result in some benefits, such as a minimum standard of quality writing for publication, its downside is that it isolates readers of “Mainstream” literature. And an “Urdu/Punjabi/Sindhi/Balochi/Pashtun” writer will have to work very hard to be accorded the same opportunities as his/her counterpart in English.
While themes like “Development”, “Democracy”, “Terrorism”, and “Patriarchy” in one form or the other have been surfacing in recent work, I think this is more effective in reaching out to a global audience, than it is in reflecting the breadth and extent of Pakistani Literature in English. We can (and would like to!) write about much more, but for that publishers and (more importantly!) readers need to accept us on a broader canvas.
4. Tell us about yourself, your closeness in relating Pakistan to your writings and how close they are to Indian Writings in English.
Here’s a fun fact. In 2007, “Neither Night Nor Day”, which featured one of my short stories, was published. My short story depicted “typical middle-class” struggles—unemployment, or rather the competition for gainful employment; the unspoken defeat of a woman struggling for economic and emotional emancipation. Class differences, class cruelty. These are fairly universal issues, I think. But the most responses I’ve received on this story are from India, more than Pakistan or any other country. That tells me something about the common ground we share, on and off the page.
I’ve spent many enjoyable hours in the midst of Indian Writing in English. And my realization as a teenager—that an interpretation of the world, a largely unexplored one— exists–started with Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things”. Her style was startling, piercing and yet for some reason, had a sort of “Apnapan” that I hadn’t come across in writing from other parts of the world.This still happens when I read something from a South Asian author.
It’s difficult to box a place into my writing. Places have characters and personality. And if (in my opinion) someone is writing about a place, they’re actually describing this all-enveloping character. I’m fortunate to be a Pakistani that way. Because to write about Pakistan, is to write about a character with sharp extremes, and some shocking (but also very beautiful) contradictions. To do justice to this, one needs to have maturity and balance.
5. Unbridled love and passion, fashion and beauty, women and culture, connecting to the city of Delhi, this was a catharsis which I experienced sometimes in the eighties, do you think the book Dilli could bring out those emotions and can we replicate it another such publication for the city of Karachi?
I think Dilli, our anthology, can evoke all this and more. Delhi’s character, I suppose, has grown dramatically since the eighties. But it hasn’t aged. In each visit, which in my memories, is like a pilgrimage, I found Delhi young, vibrant, cosmopolitan, with a deep reverence and acceptance for its past. Even as my Dilliwallay friends debated the price of preserving heritage, as the future bustles restlessly around it, the argument wasn’t about what should stay and what should go; but on how to make room for both, in a way that is respectful, non-patronizing and socially un-injurious.
Etchings of the Raj mounted on IIC’s walls; strolling on the grounds of Humayun’s tomb, driving past billboards of glamorous, global celebrities endorsing very “Desi” issues, like family planning or fair-price transport are some memories that come up again and again when I think of Delhi.
I would absolutely love to have such a publication come out for Karachi! Absolutely!
6. What it is to be in love, and its madness installed in poetry forever?
Being in love with poetry—and in literature in general, is like embracing a disease. I mean that in a good way.
You learn that humility will offer a sturdier friendship, especially in comparison to noisier, tangible friends. You school yourself to remain hopeful, but are not swayed by every wave of optimism, from inside or outside.
This does not mean a love affair with poetry is a journey of pessimism. It is a journey of hope, where the truth will always be clear to you. But where you will lie, often. Because those around you aren’t ready for the truth. And lying brings them so much comfort and assurance. It’s familiar. It’s what, and how you talk, every day.
You will also pray, often. That someone, somewhere who needs to hear the truth is prepared to. Poetry is that prayer.
And because (true) poetry is unapologetic, unselfish and often, irreverent, it can raise its eyebrows where you can’t. It can cheer where you should be mourning. And it has the power to smile when you have neither the courage, nor the strength to.
Photographs of Karachi, Pakistan
Stranger than a Sun – Review by Abha Iyengar
Poems and drawings of Amitabh Mitra
Published by The Poets Printery (South Africa)
Date of publication: February 2015
Longing caught in a Fort’s Sunlight
“In an ageless complete, you are the reversal, you are the scroll, and you remain the substrate of my many lives.” These lines, said in the first poem, seem to form for me the basis of this collection of prose poems.
Each page breathes with the smell of charcoal, for the drawings on each page are charcoal renderings, mostly of Gwalior Fort, and the havelis of Gwalior, where the poet seems to be looking for a home, a lost love. For him, “ Home is the nowhereland within each of us.”
The poet travels, to Bhutan, to Arunachal Pradesh, to Calcutta, but he takes Gwalior with him, he sketches Gwalior even in these cities, for that city has the memory of a past love. It could be just a love born through the exchanging of glances, or an evening of shared chai in rain, but it is transient, only the memory holds. And so it is that sunlight of a strange, unforgotten love that he always dreams of. “Your garara emblazoned with fine drops on a Gwalior street…”
But for him, that is a love he will hold forever and lose forever. As he says,
“Losing you long back then was perhaps an ancient rite, longer than I had ever thought…” and “loving you are now years hurtling past…”
There is the connectivity of a place to the memories of love, and the poet does this beautifully, through the drawings and sketches done by charcoal, and through the drawings and sketches done by words. In fact, the words are more like a river that flow over you, submerging you in their longing for a time gone, a place held dear through memory, a desire expressed of dreams and a loss felt over not decades, but over aeons of time, unmeasured.
Says the poet, “Believing in the fort meant believing in love and believing in the sun.” And again, somewhere else he says, “It’s you and the fort rushing back, its last echoes remain in just another sun.” You try to trace the path along the sketch lines, and peer at the arches to perhaps find the lovers standing there, under a sun, under love.
Abha Iyengar is an internationally published author, poet and British Council certified Creative Writing Facilitator. Her acclaimed novel ‘Many Fish to Fry’ is published by Pure Slush Books, Australia