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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review of Proprietary Pains published by Poets Printery, South Africa


Proprietary Pains (PP) is haunting!

The way the old Spanish or the soaring Gothic castles are still haunting for the modern tourists!

Or, the vast Russian steppes in Turgnev, running down to the very rims of the infinity, are for the readers. Or, the majestic Brahamputra of Assam, flowing down across the heart of an ancient land, is for the travellers. Or, the fleeting ruins of a Rajasthani haveli are, as seen in the afternoon sun. Things that refuse to fade from your mind already exposed to info overload. After reading the PP, you get the same feeling. It is like hearing the rustling wind in an empty room of an abandoned colonial-era bungalow set on a hill: It is the sad but redeeming MUSIC of the inner space vacated recently by somebody very dear. As we all remember songs from our childhood and can not erase them from our remembering adult heart, in the same manner, some precious persons/ special moments can never be forgotten. They get enshrined in memory. The PP by Shaleen does that for him and his readers. The young bearded poet mourns his father—an unsung college teacher, in the hinterland of India—in this bouquet of 104 short poems, published from South Africa. The poems come straight from a grieving son and the poet within transforms that personal loss— a family tragedy but a routine thing for others outside the immediate circle—into haunting music and marvelous verbal cadence. It is about remembering an ordinary father, in a celeb-driven age, where the very act of remembrance is Herculean resistance against trivializing mass culture that reduces everything, including art, to trivia and nothingness; where family and values are all dying fast, and, where the human beings and early robust humanism have been all made redundant by the emerging consumerist society. Amnesia is promoted here. Man is superfluous. Only ads, objects, sensations, ephemeral things are made sacred and desirable, crowded out by others competing for your eyeballs. In this universal age of instant gratification and instant replacement, memories of the dead, of the past, personal histories— of a person and nation, are all heroic attempts to retrieve a slice of the slipping past and capturing it in verbal structures of pure harmony and beauty and thereby, resisting the general forgetfulness endemic to nations and groups. Shaleen pays glowing tributes to a father in a minimal, sparse poetic style and transmutes the felt pains into flowing, arching Niagra fall of loss and recovery, in the face of extreme pain, hardships and emotional black-outs. In the process, a son feels orphaned by the parental death but a promising poet is born…cleansed by mourning and finding strength in that personal tragedy, emerging as a true person, down but not out by the slings of misfortune…the stuff of serious art anywhere and occasion for deep meditations on Life. It is also an elegy on patriarchy, now in the throes of crisis everywhere. Broadly, it is about the loss of father figure, an angst felt by us, while growing up. It is about finite that is man and an infinity that is art!

Dr. Sunil Sharma

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Susmit Bose, A Maestro of Indo-English Music


I came across Susmit Bose one afternoon on a hot summer day at Delhi sometime in 1978. I am not sure of the year and it might be even before that. Delhi was my favourite hunting ground, hunting for poetry books, trying to sell my poetry book, hunting to fall in love again and again, it was all about love and poetry as it is still now. I have actually never met him till today.

We have a mutual friend who owns a busy café cum gift shop just below Indian Oil Bhavan on Janpath. It is there that I found Susmit Bose’s Long Playing Vinyl Record ‘Train to Calcutta’. Susmit Bose was going to be with me for the next thirty years. I have carried his LP wherever I went. This is one of my most treasured items.

Delhi of the seventies was different. Poetry and Music were emerging in an aroma of genuine Indianess. JS ‘The magazine that thinks young ‘ edited by the maverick Desmond Doig in the seventies was organising music concerts in Kolkata and bringing beat groups from Shillong, Kohima, Darjeeling, Bombay and New Dehi. Indo English Poetry had already taken roots in New Delhi. Reciting poetry near the tea shop next to Godavari at Jawaharlal Nehru University was a regular feature. Evenings and Poetry merged together in unforgettable nights. I feel proud to have been a part of that period.

Susmit Bose came as a sudden storm with simple lyrics that got embedded in permanency.He wrote on his album,

‘These songs convey my sentiments and interpretations of situations around me. I am not trying to preach in my songs but want to share my feelings with you. Having experimented in serious forms in folk music, there are two songs in this album which are the results of this experiment. They are both beautiful songs. The ‘Baul’ ( the folk song of Bengal) written by Kazi Nazrul Islam has had a great impact on me. Viva La Quinte Brigada is a song of the Spanish civil War and has been recorded before by someone whom I regard with great respect – Pete Seeger. I take this opportunity to thank all who helped me to make this dream of recording come true especially Bob Dylan who inspired me a great deal in my music.’

My favourite has always been his song whose lyrics go like this –

I wrote this song

On a Sunday morn

On a train to Calcutta bound

Of a boy who was travelling all alone

The sun went up and all was well

Till the man in the uniform

Was checking all the tickets

And was smiling

A sudden frown came on his face

As he saw the boy around…..

Susmit Bose is now known as an Urban Folk Balladeer. He sings about social issues in English to Indian audiences. His latest song on Binayak Sen, a doctor imprisoned in Chattisgarh created as much furore as my poem on him. A talented filmmaker, he’s produced several successful television shows for Doordarshan, Surabhi, a show on Indian culture being amongst the best-known. He has also released documentary films like Akha Teej on child marriage; A Revival on traditional medicine, For Who; Man Of Heart on the bauls, for IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts). He also arranged the song Hum Honge Kamyab with Anil Biswas and has led the All India Radio Choir. He’s performed in international folk music concerts from Cuba to Berlin, and has sung with folk music legends like Pete Seeger in the US and Canada. He has also performed with Paul Horn, an internationally acclaimed flautist, for a US/UK project on world music.

How do you speak of freedom?

When your thoughts are so in chains

How do you see the rainbow?

Without the rain

(Certain Thoughts, Public Issue, 2005)

Whenever I travel to India, I make it a point to visit the café and ask my friend about Susmit. All of us have grown old and today on my birthday I put his vinyl disc on the player and listen to his immortal songs. What a better way to celebrate a birthday by listening to a giant of Indo-English Music. I remember I had penned a few lines in 1979 –

Connaught Place Blues

We had once walked around
Connaught place for hours
Trying to solve a puzzle
Of a day in its stately columns
Holding aloft the far shores
Of an unfamiliar sky
Morning of jigsaw pieces in The Book Worm or
Mind shopping at the pavement
For love poems
Rushing to embrace
Colors, lips
At a backthought corridor in
Dhoomimal Gallery
Our legs ached
Going round and round
Just trying to be somewhere
Until the one legged man in Dass Studios
Appeared from nowhere
As Sushmit Bose’s voice from the gramophone
Bent down to pick us
Loving was an afternoon
In a season that finally fell in its
Rightful place.

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Two Reviews of ‘Tonight’

I’m very pleased to bring you these reviews of ‘Tonight: an Anthology of World Love Poetry’, along with pictures from a recent trip to Oslo, Norway:

Being interviewed by Professor Santosh Kumar on Trends in South African Poetry at Oslo Geoff reciting his poems at Oslo Amitabh Mitra launching 'Tonight' at Oslo, 20 September 2008 'Tonight' on the book shelves of Tronsmo Book Shop, Oslo 'Hudson' and 'Inyathi'

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'Tonight' Cover

Review: ‘Tonight: An Anthology of World Love Poetry’

Love Poetry at its Global Best

by Dr. Santosh Kumar

Tonight: An Anthology of World Love Poetry is a fascinating kaleidoscope of poems of love created by the poets from several countries. Tonight includes poems revealing Dr. Amitabh Mitra’s determined and characteristically emotional quest for love. This Anthology is edited by Dr. Amitabh Mitra from South Africa, Victoria Valentine from United States and Glory Sasikala Franklin from India. Dr. Mitra’s vision of an Anthology that he yearned to create since the days of the publication of Pritish Nandy’s Love Poetry Anthology ‘Strangertime’ in 1979 has finally been fulfilled. W. H. Auden rightly felt: “Let us love each other or die.” Matthew Arnold also indicates the importance of love: “Ah, love, let us be true to one another.” There are many proverbs about the significance of love. “Love conquers all” (Virgil). “All you need is love” (The Beatles). Walter Pater remarks that the great Pre-Raphaelite poet D. G. Rossetti (1828-1882) was ever a lover, servant and singer, faithful as Dante, of Beatrice (Pater:216). We are moved and stimulated by wonderful images in Amitabh’s “Gwalior” where we find the lyrical intensity at its best:

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A Review of Tonight

Rumjhum BiswasOne of the contributors to Tonight, An Anthology of World Love Poetry (Poets Printery, 2008), Rumjhum Biswas, has just posted a short review of the collection as a whole:

“Tonight”, a sleek volume of love poetry was launched at the World Poetry Festival in Oslo in September this year. I received my copies today and loved it immediately; not necessarily because two of my own love poems are in it!

This anthology of love poems is the ‘creation’ of a person who I call the mad doctor of poetry – Dr. Amitava Mitra ( His very busy schedule at a hospital in East London, South Africa cannot keep him away from his twin loves for art and poetry. Not only does he write exquisite poetry himself (, but also supports poetry and poets through the Poets’ Printery press. The two other people involved in compiling this sleekly done anthology are Victoria Valentine, the publisher of Skyline Publishers and Glory S. Franklin, a Chennai based writer and moderator of the writers’ group – Glorioustimes.

You can read her full post here.

A Million thanks for all your support.


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Geoff Jackson Praises Graham Lancaster’s Fledgeling

FledgelingDear Friends: This is a review of Graham Lancaster’s poetry book done by well known poet Geoff Jackson from Denmark. ‘Fledgeling’ is published by the Poets Printery, East London, South Africa.

‘Fledgeling’ is a book of poems published by Dr. Amitabh Mitra who owns the the Poets Printery Publishing House. Amitabh himself a well known poet uses his his publishing house to provide a platform for poets from all over the world.

Graham Vivian Lancaster, a representative voice from South Africa offers his work, a collection of poems, ‘Fledgeling’. Never could a name be so misconceived. Graham is not a ‘Fledgeling’ but an Albatross, who sails the seas of the skies of the world so proudly.

Or yet, am I mistaken?

For he still seems to look at the world with the naivety of a fledgling seeing it for the very first time in pristine colors. He explains himself in his poem of the same name that he has brought up a Fledgling and says:

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Editorial of Inyathi


The new issue of Inyathi is in your hands now. It was difficult to bring this issue together primarily because of lack of quality articles from artists of Eastern Cape and beyond. I still fail to believe that artists can’t be writers or students of Fine Arts from various universities in the Eastern Cape are not encouraged to write. Inyathi as a journal will continue to survive under such adverse conditions. South Africa is going through a socio-political turmoil, challenging artists and writers to bring forth a creativity which is different from that which happened during the euphoria of apartheid liberation. I feel truly fortunate to bring out a journal on arts during such a period.

A few days back I was invited to attend a Seminar on Publishing organised by the Department of Journalism, Walter Sisulu University, East London and funded by the German Government. I rubbed shoulders with various small time publishers like me whose only desire is to satisfy a passion to bring out the printed word in an aesthetic form. My good friend Volkmar Dobaat was the Chairperson of this Seminar. He is a keen photographer and had an article on Ansell Adams in the last issue. I was struck by his statement for more communication via the print media as communication is itself marketing. Keeping in with his viewpoint, the last issue of Inyathi was sold to numerous artists and art lovers even though I didn’t have any distribution system in place. Many reprints were made and complimentary copies were sent to universities abroad. Inyathi still remains the only print journal on Arts in Eastern Cape.

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A Hudson View

hudson-1.jpgThe International Print Poetry Journal, ‘A Hudson View’ Spring 2008 edition is out. It has the poetry of Kobus Moolman, John Ballam, Gonapragasen Kathan Naicker, Stanley Kenani, Freddy Frankel and a host of other international poets.

I present this beautiful poem of Kobus Moolman who is one of the main representative voices of Contemporary South African Poetry.

The slow soft glow of evening
settles unnoticed on cardboard trees,
the backdrop of a hill-side, still,
brown and pocked with rocks but slowly
fading to a featureless block.

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Love Poetry Rendezvous and Poetry Art Exhibition, 29 April 2008, Durban


April was a great month and the 29 was the greatest day. I was looking forward to meeting the greatest of Durban Poets who had assembled at the Point Yacht Club to welcome me. Brett Beiles the former Chairperson of The Live Poets Society had extended an invitation to visit Durban and give a talk on Poetic matters. Brett is a great friend, to an extent that I call him up at all ungodly hours just to discuss trivial things. Brett’s poetry resounds of contemporary South Africa. His works have been published in ‘A Hudson View’. (more…)

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Introducing Stanley Onjezani Kenani

Stanley KenaniI have the greatest pleasure in introducing Stanley Onjezani Kenani. Stanley is a well known poet from Malawi. I have published his works in the print poetry journal, ‘A Hudson View’. His poem ‘Lilongwe at midnight’ is being published in the coming issue of Hudson.


Born in 1976, Stanley lives in Malawi and has read his poems at the Arts Alive Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe, Struga Poetry Evenings in Macedonia and Poetry Africa in Durban, South Africa.

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‘Inyathi’, A Journal on Arts launched

With John Steele, Walter Sisulu UniversityMr. Billy Nel launching the first arts journal, InyathiThe launch of the Inaugural edition of Inyathi on the 9 November went successfully at the Ann Bryants Gallery, East London.. The journal, first of its kind in Eastern Cape was unveiled by the Hon. Minister of Finance, Mr. Billy Nel. Mr. Nel is an avid art collector; his home has art and artefacts from around the globe. He is well known for his huge collection of motor cycles dating back to forties and an airplane which he has converted into a lovely restaurant.


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