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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Cover of Splinters of a Mirage Dawn, An Anthology of Migrant Poetry from South Africa, Edited by Amitabh Mitra and Naomi Nkealah

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1947, Memories, Oil on Canvas by Arpana Caur

When India turned 50 in 1997, I did a painting of my maternal grandfather Dr. M. S. Bajaj who migrated with his whole family, carrying the Holy Book on his head and a bundle of memories on his back.

Arpana Caur

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Splinters of a Mirage Dawn, An Anthology of Migrant Poetry from South Africa

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Splinters of a Mirage Dawn, An Anthology of South African Migrant Poetry is the result of a conglomeration of a variety of images that I brought with me through different countries, and finally to South Africa. Poetry and pigeons are my favourite as much as the fractured Sunsets that suddenly put them to flight in timeless journeys to distant and different skies. Poems of migration by poets who reached South Africa just also happens to be another statistical variable that remains incomplete, its importance camouflaged by many other elements of stranger disbelief.

The Migrant experience in a global fraternity is as ancient and ageless as the Earth we tread on. As much as we believe in the merging of global frontiers and the onset of a space era, living beings continue to move out in not such dynamicity, only reasonable in many such memories, as these within this book. Hurts indulge in navigational afterthoughts, its realm merges in the core of their birth after demise. Odours and homelessness are the theme of consciousness of star gazers, galaxies just keep moving within.

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.

Poems are sheer words; they are steep and have jagged edges. Words of Prose and Poems stem from raw winds, storms in vain trying desperately to live normally. Living is these words, their magnitude magnified by just any single poem of a migrant poet from this anthology. We live in many such upheavals; poems remain the border of infinite sanity. In a long divide growth, these poems try to infuse roots in crowded memories, waiting to bloom once again

Dawn comes as usual. Poems of migration share their continuity within many such dawns.

I am grateful to Dr. Naomi Nkealah, Poet and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Languages at the University of Limpopo for her assistance in bringing this unique anthology together. I must offer my heartfelt gratitude to internationally acclaimed artist Arpana Caur who consented to share her art relating to the horrors of the 1947 Migration of her family from Pakistan. Without the Migrant poets living in South Africa, their poems relating to their everyday mind, this book would not have seen the light of day. I thank them too..

Amitabh Mitra

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For Rhino in a Shrinking World – A Publishing Adventure

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Riding the midnight river, we reached a new dream called summer- Pritish Nandy

Publishing a poetry book on rhino extinction is like reaching home only to find that a rude summer we once loved has changed into a concrete landscape, photos of my home and peacocks on my veranda are only tales, now that I have for my children. Life, love and rivers of many such thoughts, of humans and animals roaming freely lies cluttered in my dreams. Explaining the process of publishing Harry Owen’s international anthology in simple words remains a not so simple task. In creating a movement towards extinction awareness, Harry and his fellow poets have shared shades of a fractured dawn within an increasing globalization indulging in increasing trauma, finally loosing the sense of pain to a long lasting drought.

Publishing poetry, right from realizing a colour on a blank canvas to building in strange shadow lines and finally creating a sustainable structure, remains a challenge. For me, as a trauma surgeon, I need to regroup my values far more frequently reviving them in the involvement of the making of such a poetry book. I asked myself a number of times, “Why the rhino?”, it’s possibly because I too have lost long back disclosures, on trauma driven late nights at Niger, Eastern Congo, Zimbabwe and now in Mdantsane, South Africa. .While the eye simply records interpersonal violence and the most extreme trauma, the mind blunts itself to changing horizons. The killing of a rhino is a representation of man’s own gradual extinction in sky less pandemics closer than one thinks.

This book will remain, Harry’s dreams that he shares, his confidence in my own recurring illusions from where this book evolves and in Rentia Ellis’s power in subscribing to these thoughts and indulging in building walls of a far dynamic outcome, than we ever believed.

The Rhino lives; this book with its extraordinary poetry will live too.

Amitabh Mitra

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For Rhino in a Shrinking World, An International Anthology, Edited by Harry Owen, Illustrated by Sally Scott

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In early 2012, as part of a rapidly growing criminal poaching campaign in Africa and Asia, three white rhinos were attacked and brutally mutilated for their horn at Kariega Game Reserve, near Grahamstown in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. The animals suffered appalling injuries and were left to bleed slowly to death.

Dr William Fowlds, a noted wildlife veterinarian, was called to treat them but one rhino died at the scene and there was little hope extended for the other two. As a result, however, of Dr Fowlds’s care and professional attention, one animal survived for three weeks before tragically drowning in a water hole, and the other – Thandi, whose name means ‘Love’ in isiXhosa – miraculously still lives more than a year later and is recovering from her trauma.

This international poetry anthology, For Rhino in a Shrinking World, its editor and poet Harry Owen’s attempt to raise awareness of the horror that is rhino poaching through the words of some of the world’s best and most generous-spirited poets. It is illustrated by renowned South African artist Sally Scott, whose specially commissioned work, like that of the poets, is contributed entirely free of charge.

All proceeds from the sale of this beautiful volume go, via the Chipembere Rhino Foundation (http//, to support the work of fighting poaching and protecting our gravely threatened natural heritage.

Some of the international poets whose work is represented include (amongst many others): Shabbir Banoobhai, Kerry Hammerton, Lesego Rampolokeng, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Rosemund Handler, Geoffrey Haresnape, Chris Mann, Dan Wylie, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers & Joan Metelerkamp (South Africa); Geraldine Green, Sheenagh Pugh, John Lindley, Pascale Petit, Pippa Little, Kate Noakes & Jennifer Wong (UK); Adam Tavel, J.D. Smith, Veronica Golos, David Mallett, Alfred Corn & Hélène Cardona (USA); Chloë Callistemon, Nola Firth, Lorne Johnson, Andy Kissane & Philip Neilsen (Australia); as well as superb poets from Ireland, Canada, India, Zimbabwe, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Germany, Botswana, Nigeria, France and The Netherlands.

The poets who have contributed to this book forcibly bring to mind the terrible plight of the rhino in the modern world. We applaud their efforts. – Dr Ian Player and Andrew Muir (The Wilderness Foundation)

I trust the power of the written word gathered within this wonderful collection, inspired by Harry Owen as an expression of his own journey, is enough to change our hearts and ignite us into action. – Dr William Fowlds

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Review of Nandy’s Stuck on 1/Forty Pritish Nandy, Yevgeny of the East

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Stuck on 1/Forty, Poems by Pritish Nandy, Published 2012

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Madness is the Second Stroke, Poems of Pritish Nandy, Published 1971

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A 1970 Newspaper Cutting

Stuck on 1 by forty, Pritish Nandy’s latest poetry book is with me in the hospital. Between treating assaults and trauma, I peep into his book every day. I read his poems almost like I was treating an emergency protocol. Emergency Medicine is not flexible, but his poems are, and I long for that day when I can virtually fuse Medicine and Poetry so that each one can relate to the other.

If I need to write on his poems in Stuck on 1 by forty, I need to write about Pritish Nandy himself. Actually I have been writing about his works since 1979. We have two Nandys: the one who was the poet at Calcutta (I prefer referring to it as Calcutta) and the other one who lives in Mumbai (not Bombay). The Poet Nandy believes that after leaving Calcutta, he became a prose writer and has been achieving laurels in many other genres other than poetry. But to my way of thinking both the Nandys are one and the same and Pritish never left Calcutta inasmuch as I never left Gwalior. Pritish in his foreword writes about his leaving Calcutta, never to return. Mumbai is his new life, the glitz and glamour sometimes overshadowing the days as a struggling poet: he wrote poetry at a pace few could. Calcutta gave him poetry in streets and lanes, he in turn gave Calcutta the gift of Indo English Poetry, the first of its kind that many never believed in, yet it was poetry of many surfaces in arrogant sunsets.

While launching his glossy book ‘Again’, he said, he stopped writing poetry because poetry doesn’t sell. He turned to writing prose, and I have been following his work surreptitiously. Nandy indeed is a prolific writer of prose as well, though most of it is so poetic that they come across as prose-poems, Nandy was the editor of The Illustrated Weekly, in which he wrote about quite a few people, bringing out certain interesting aspects of their personality. He wrote about Osho -

“Few people have understood India like Osho. It was an understanding at many levels. The philosophical, the historic, the purely emotional – and even the political and the literary, the wanton and the spiritual. His was a holistic understanding. An understanding that went beyond words, into the uncharted terrain of true love. For love was at the core of everything that Osho believed in. It was the ultimate message he left for us. To discover, experience, savor life through love.”

Nobody has ever over stepped in mystifying the beauty of Rekha the way Pritish did. I must have read that article in the Illustrated Weekly a hundred times. Pritish, in many off his books, correlated with the beautiful photography of his friend, Dhunji Rana. This brought out the magnificence of his poetry, which managed to stay in the hearts and minds of the younger generation of India the way it did in me.

Calcutta, 1970

I remember it clearly. There were two Calcuttas during that period. The Calcutta of the Elitist who met at the Saturday Club and for balls at the Swimming Club and then the one that was the middle class who wished the destruction of anything and everything that the mind believed in, both were tired of living a boring apolitical death. And then there were Babas who understood both these groups and exploited them. I also remember Desmond Doig, the charismatic editor of JS asking fervently to interview a Naxalite just to understand their philosophy. He never got one. Till this day, the Naxalites are the most misunderstood group because there is simply no political agenda that can be put within a frame or the covers of a book. If the exploited in the then Calcutta and now in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are termed as ‘Naxalites’ then I must be one Naxalite too.

Pritish Nandy burst into the poetry scene during that period with many books, and one of them was a book titled Madness is the Second Stroke. The book which was published by Dialogue Publications also got a place in a JS Blueprint issue. Calcutta was moving fast in involuntary spasms and Pritish just needed to pick on some of these. This book is in a soft cover with a jacket similar to Stuck on 1 by forty. Measuring 22 cm / 13.5 cms., this book is slightly bigger than Stuck on 1 by Forty. It has a soft cover continuing as a jacket just like Stuck on however it doesn’t have the gloss paper print and the UV gloss cover. There are three important happenings that have made me relate the book to Stuck on. This book is living proof that Pritish Nandy’s attachment to Calcutta continues.

Pritish was fast becoming an icon with his poetry that asked everybody reading his works to throw out the grammar book of Wren and Martin. He clasped and re-clasped his words and sentences creating a form of English language poetry that is truly his own. Questioning poetry, he built his own relevance. Relating his life and living, he brought the multitude of Indian culture and thinking to a resemblance that people in India finally understood. In an India during that time when Internet never existed, he believed in writing poetry and publishing them through the small press.

During the same time, another poet had become instantly popular. He too did not pay much attention to grammar. He too, like Pritish, wrote about the common man’s anguish and love. Yevgeny Yevtushenko is an international icon not only in the world of poetry but among the common men of the former Soviet republic. The Soviet bureaucracy once frowned on him simply because they couldn’t place Yevgeny’s work in a single distinct file. Tired of the existing literature, he started writing in spurts of everyday life that everybody understood.

The remarkable impact that Yevtushenko made sprang more than anything else from his being the representative of quite a new generation, seeing old truths through fresh eyes as each new generation must. By consistently refusing to compromise his regard for truth or his concept of good poetry he became this new generation’s unchallenged literary spokesman, and opened a way for the host of talented young poets that has emerged in the last decades. Peter Levi.

Pritish Nandy no doubt became the Yevtushenko of the seventies and continues to be so. He hustled in a new form of pop culture hitherto unknown to the Indo English Poetry Movement. Calcutta was his life and continues to be so. While people like Braz Gonsalves and Pam Crain were breaking into newer forms of music and Ananda Shankar had grasped the grammar of Western music and successfully implemented it in his newer form of music, Pritish Nandy just did the same with his poetry, he brought society, politics and love together in a heady mixture of suspended words crafted out of remembering the smell of a city and his love for love itself.

Let me now try fusing both these books together. Its all about memory that seems to cling even after one has written a book. He quoted in the beginning pages of Madness is the Second Stroke

Who can say where memory begins
Who can say where the present ends
Where the past becomes a sentimental ballad
And sorrow a paper yellowed with age
Louis Aragon

In his poem, What shall we do with these memories, he has experimented with italics and removing commas and full stops. This would continue in his poetry of 2012 where a poem can end abruptly in a single line or there would be double space after each line

this is my country
the smell of blood that I have known
and the silence that I would have recognised
and yet they have sentenced me to death
a silent wordless execution on the nineteenth hill of fury
a death even memory cannot disown without hate

In his poem, Down the ruined staircase of the sun

remember Anamika madness returns at the stroke of
exactly at twelve we shall both die

Calcutta if you must exile is considered Pritish Nandy’s best poem ever written by an Indian. Pritish has added this poem to many of his collections and many of his close friends including Shashi Tharoor remember this poem from a volatile era in Calcutta.

And I will show the hawker who died with Calcutta in his eyes
Calcutta if you must exile me destroy my sanity before I go

In his poem, Though I have never seen the mountains of Colombia

Though I have never seen the mountains of
Columbia your name Camilio Torres the storm
has whispered in my blood

straggling group of guerrillas have gathered near
the frontiers and in the foxholes the soldiers wait

In his poem, Wandering in this strange continent of the Asphodel

there are moments when to accept peace is to line
up your friends blindfold against the wall and gun
them down there are moments when the only
honest thing left to do is to fight and die

and till then peace-mongers poets and pimps can
carry on this trade in human frailties

when the time to die comes friend we are all men
and equal

guerrilla into the night raise your rusted bayonet

the time has come to fight

Love, Violence, Protest and Living, were part of our lives especially if one stayed in Calcutta during the seventies. Madness is the Second Stroke is all about that. During the same period Yevgeny shunned Byron and wrote poetry. In his celebrated poem Zima Junction, he writes

As we get older we get honester
That’s something
And these objective changes correspond
Like a language to me and my mutations
If the way I see you now is not the way
In which we saw you once, if in you
What I see now is new
It was by self-discovery I found it.
I realize that my twenty years might be
Less than mature: but for a reassessment:
What I said and ought not to have said,
And ought to have said and was silent

In his poem, Epistle to Neruda

Like a seasoned lion,
Neruda buys bread in the shop.
He asks for it to be wrapped in paper
And solemly puts it under his arm:
“Let someone at least think
that at some time
I bought a book…”

In his poem, Memento

You entered – neither too late nor too early -
at exactly the right time, as my very own,
and with a smile, uprooted me
from memories, as from a grave.
And I, once again whirling among
the painted horses, gladly exchange,
for one reminder of life,
all its memories.

Stuck on 1/Forty is Pritish Nandy’s latest collection of poems. Published by Amaryllis in 2012, Nandy brings forth poetry within the one hundred forty characters allowed in Twitter, a widely used social networking site. Its revolutionary, its colourful, it has the familiar smell of Nandy and its obviously beautiful. Being an old Nandy gazer among many others, Gulzar being a well-known one, I beg to disagree with Pritish when he says -

So, I am back to poetry. Its different from what I have written before

When did Pritish leave poetry? The magic of gauging immortality with words still continues in the same way as it did in the seventies.

Chetan Bhagat writes, It’s rare to have poetry from someone who has fought injustice all his life with prose.

It would seem that Chetan has possibly not read Nandy’s poetry from 1969 onwards, which forms the bulk of the work, as much, if not more than his prose. Noteworthy among these is Nandy’s poetry on Bangladesh and his translations of noted Bangladeshi poets in his book Poems from Bangladesh, Voice of a New Nation published in 1971. Nandy is also the youngest recipient of the Padma Shri for his poetry

Stuck on 1/forty has poems in fonts of different size and in different colours, matching the mood of the poem.

On Twitter he writes -

Why am I on twitter?
Do I need friends all over again?
Or am I hunting down
My solitudes one by one?

His poems on Kolkata (not Calcutta)

The tramcar hurtles
Through the night,
Kolkata sleeps
As I walk alone
Alone in the dark, through
Lonely parks
To where I want to be


The blue bus stumbled down
The broken roads of Howrah

Till I reached the factory
And found that nothing really
Mattered but you.


Cities come and go.
Bombay is Mumbai now,
Calcutta, Kolkata
Where will I hide from you

Or for that matter
From myself? I write me
A passport to hell.

This poem on Darbari Kannada reminds me of his book Lonesong Street where he had mentioned about it, his fondness grows

The darbari kannada
Contexts the moment:
The gull swoops down
To pick its prey.

To end this review, would be the most difficult task for me, because realizing the brittleness of a sunset trauma from Nandy’s poetry is far more relevant to me than performing craniotomies in makeshift camps in Eastern Congo behind a setting sun, some years back. Ishita spent hours designing poems in this book and then redesigning them again, somewhere at some place, within this book, colors just changed and so did the fonts. Poetry bloomed because of her excellent graphic designing.

I seem to have rambled on while writing this review on Stuck on 1/forty. It always happens. Nandy cant be captured in a review nor in a Ph.D thesis. He just happens, a happening in a brilliant galaxy where mass and matter merge, words simply explode.


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Accepting Submissions for South African Anthology of Migrant Poetry

Watercolor of a Somali Spaza Shop in Mdantsane by Amitabh Mitra
Watercolor of a Somali Spaza Shop in Mdantsane by Amitabh Mitra


Accepting submissions for a South African Anthology on Migrant Poetry. The publication by Poets Printery is scheduled for February 2013. South Africa has been host to people from countries of Africa and beyond. This anthology will provide the best of migrant poetry and a rare insight into the problems of migrant population and the host country.

Who are eligible – Migrant Poets from other countries living in South Africa

Language – English, Can write in the language of the country but a translation in English has to be provided

Topics –

• Internal Migration
• Political Asylum
• Refugee status and border jumping
• Humanitarian Crisis and Complex Humanitarian Emergency
• Xenophobia
• Host country acceptance
• Economic denting to the host country
• Role of UNHCR – The United Nations Refugee Agency
• War and genocide
• Disease, physical and mental trauma and access to primary health care

We cannot guarantee every submission to be published

Please send three poems with a 50 word bio to Amitabh Mitra at

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Launch of Unbreaking the Rainbow, Voices of Protest from New South Africa

Daily Dispatch, South Africa’s premier news daily talks about the South African Protest Poetry Anthology -
Published in March 2012, the book is set to be launched at the National English Literary Museum at the Eastern Star Gallery in Grahamstown on 6 July, 5.30 pm. For Mitra, this launch is particularly important as it represents the voices of contemporary South African political poetry movements.
“This project is very important. It’s the first book ever produced after the democratic elections in South Africa regarding protest poetry,” said Mitra.
Mitra added that the protest poetry on a global scale is synonymous with protest poetry in South Africa during apartheid.
Other than featuring some of South Africa’s greats in the world of poetry, the book also has a foreword written by Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of the late and great Mahatma Gandhi.

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Photographs from the Book Launch organized by National English Literary Museum, Grahamstown

Unbreaking the Rainbow, Voices of Protest from New South Africa

Harry Owen introducing Unbreaking the Rainbow

Medicine, Art, Poetry and Protest

Poets and Poetry Lovers

Protest Poetry on a Global Platform

Wine and More Wine

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Introducing Unbreaking the Rainbow: Voices of Protest From New South Africa

In this collection of protest poetry from the new South Africa, a multiplicity of voices find a place to be heard, read and seen.

Unbreaking The Rainbow: Voices of Protest From New South Africa

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Dust on the Road – A Happening at St. Clements, Durban

”The 25th July evening at St Clements was a memorable event, I am glad to inform you. The bad weather did not deter good friends to come and listen to poetry from Dust, songs and music”. Dr. J.M. Spitaels

Dust on the Road – A collection of Art, Poems in English and French by the Physician Poet, Dr.Jean Marie Spitaels was launched at Durban in the fashionable up market restaurant, St. Clements. Poets Printery South Africa is proud of being a part of this beautiful book. The book can be bought directly from us at a special price of Rand 100 or from any Exclusive Book Outlets on ordering.

Dr. Spitaels work features prominently in the Protest Poetry Anthology, Unbreaking the Rainbow, Voices of Protest from New South Africa.






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Hudson View, Spring 2011 is now available


The latest issue of the international prestigious print poetry journal, A Hudson View has the poetry of -

Jana van Niekerk, Cape Town, South Africa
K P Shashidharan, New Delhi, India
Bina Biswas translating Rabindranath Tagore, Hyderabad, India
Subroto Bondo, New Delhi, India
Karen Lazar, Wits, Johannesburg
Victoria Valentine, Publisher, Hudson View, Water Forest Press
Brian Landis, Jungian Psychotherapist, USA
Stephanie Pope, Editor of Mythopoetry Scholar
Semeen Ali, Agra, India
Amitabh Mitra, East London, South Africa
Naomi Nkealah, Wits, Johannesburg
Debapriya Dey, Kolkata, India
Tsitsi Sachikonye, Rhodes, Grahamstown

And many more

Please contact me at the earliest for multiple copies

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