Brief Biography: Amitabh Mitra is a Medical Doctor in a busy hospital in East London, South Africa. A widely published poet in the web and print, Amitabh has been hailed as one of the most popular South African poet writing in English today by the Skyline Literary Review, New York.
Geosi Reads: Has your profession as a Medical Doctor had any major influences to you as a writer?
Amitabh Mitra: Yes, it does allow me to travel in the human mind. I have access to limitless horizons, the complexities of life forms, witnessing survival, celebrating moments of fellow humans who decide living in the darkness is relevant. Pain and extreme pain are instincts, reaching me as words and colors. Happiness is an inadvertent adventure of a dew drop that fell suddenly, so silently just before another stranger dawn came in.
Geosi Reads: Medicine and Poetry? Which of them is your first love?
Amitabh Mitra: Definitely, Poetry. Poetry takes me back always, loving is a poem, loving and living are evenings colliding, even when our lips traced partings in our many lives. Medicine conjures, a vain attempt in immortality.
Geosi Reads: You come from a small town in Central India, Gwalior. Are you comfortable with your new settlement, South Africa?
Amitabh Mitra: South Africa is beautiful.
Trauma lurks behind closed doors and open streets in Mdantsane. It was the same before 1994 and even after that. You may ask me, what’s so important about trauma, isn’t it everywhere in the world. But this here is so different. People instead have lost feeling pain. Trauma occurs in slices of repeated contours as a sun bleeds every day. People don’t remember having seen a slaughtered season so many times. Yesterday in the deepest dark I encountered a young girl. She was perspiring in fits, her mind jumped in crystalline splinters of cocaine. I could see her only through a sieve of old scars. She tells me in a distance her heart feels like a Sahel drought when blood trickles and disappears, her tongue swollen with many memories and the sand. She was a migratory bird, her conviction now lost to the many suns she dared dreaming again. Somewhere in a developed country, you browse through books and people. Academia is a reason and building smoother roads, juggling with history and future is trying hypothesis in refrained units. In Mdantsane, we just don’t conclude. Back home when it rained you had once said, it feels as if the sky wants to share its river with us. What could we have shared with the sky then?
Amitabh Mitra: My earliest memories are only of love poetry. Love poems I still recite to myself while driving to hospital
you forget me,
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
if to seek another land.
Geosi Reads: What do you suppose are the qualities that go into your writing?
Amitabh Mitra: I believe, there can never be any need of quality in writing, it’s just the writing, unstoppable, a single twig takes on so many hues in a single day.
Geosi Reads: Many writers have other writers they use as models! Do you?
Amitabh Mitra: I read a lot of contemporary poetry, and publish many such works. I give platform to such unknown poets. One must remember that poetry today, is a massive movement of such unknown poets, artists, sculptors, musicians, filmmakers and even physicians who believe in blending their creativity with each other. If music can reduce post-operative pain, surely poetry can relate to physiological and pathological parameters.
Geosi Reads: Are there enough readers in South Africa that read your poems?
Yes, there are, my gratitude goes to them. Poetry of the black township of Mdantsane irrevocably touching Indian roots is a heady aroma, addictive of such similar thoughts.
Geosi Reads: Do you write everyday, seven days a week?
Amitabh Mitra: No, I involve myself in creating visual arts, producing book covers for poetry books we are publishing. I do find time to write too.
Geosi Reads: Have you ever analyzed the finances of writing to that of medicine?
Amitabh Mitra: We should never relate economics to creativity. It’s like loving, yet never reaching her. A poem is invaluable to such an extent that we create and give away for free.
Geosi Reads: Do you have a specific mission in modern poetry?
Amitabh Mitra: Poets don’t write poetry with any specific mission in mind. Poetry just happens as much as love.
The letter written to you a year came back today, stamped and wrinkled, addressee unknown. It was one of those moments, birds swooned down, stale words indulged in a new meaning; I for once try to familiarize the smell of your city. It’s only that you are no longer there.
From my soon to be published book, Stranger than a Sun
Geosi Reads: How do you react to the New York based Skyline Literary Review which hails you as one of the most popular South African poet writing in English today?
Amitabh Mitra: There are many South African poets whose creativity surpasses mine. I bow down to poets and publishers from overseas who felt, my poetry has specific strata within South African contemporary movement. I thank my fellow Indian poets who have followed my work closely, understanding the African element congruous to our common lives.
Note: Photo (Writer’s portrait and Gwalior Ravines) Credit: Amitabh Mitra