The New Indian Express 

The Statesman 

The Telegraph

Transitions: Indian Diaspora and Four Women Writers

The Statesman (

Review by Aparna Singh

Amit Shankar Saha’s Transitions Indian Diaspora and Four Women Writers is an academic foray into the phenomenon of Indian diaspora and its literature. The word academic might bear the heavy weight of institutionalized research, but as one goes through this thorough body of in-depth analysis one discovers a lucid trail of insights that bear the stamp of creative and thoughtful reflections. The book begins with a comprehensive overview of the concept of displacement and diaspora. Peppered with a range of citations from the stalwarts of Diaspora Studies Saha’s observations are nothing short of succinct encapsulations on national and transnational configurations: “The phenomenon of displacement seems to define a nation as not of a displaced population but of many displaced populations. This plurality inherent in world culture is not new.” Any scholar or reader of diasporic texts would be able to foresee where all this is steering us to; the ideas of home, memory and identity. However, Saha, conscious as he is of the marginalization based on class, race and gender, turns his attention to the “diaspora of the non-white people, especially of African origin” who as he says have a radically different trajectory of formation. He then goes on to describe the Indian diaspora and how it stands apart from the other diasporic communities for eg. in terms of its resilience and achievements. Saha then maps the ways in which the modern Indian Diasporic community has become “valued contributors in the progress of their adopted countries''. When Saha surmises “Colonial and post-colonial India are divisions that are now more relevant to a historian than a litterateur because Indian English literature has transcended the barriers of petty classifications and has become amalgamated with mainstream English literature” - we cannot but agree.


The second chapter titled “The Four Writers” is a detailed, scholarly examination of the four women writers: Anita Desai, Bharati Mukherjee, Sunetra Gupta, and Jhumpa Lahiri. The chapter sweeps across the “private universes” that Desai so pointedly conjures, to Mukherjee’s depiction of the “expatriate aristocrat” and the “immigrant nobody” to Gupta and Lahiri, who “fit seamlessly into the tradition of writers from Britain or U.S.A.” but continue to struggle with the identity crisis they face. While looking at the dynamics of place and existential anxieties that these women authors delve into, Saha masterfully draws the shifts and transitions that their writing trajectory underlines. That the self-fashioning in a diaspora “acquires an additional edge of urgency and poignancy in case of female migrants” brings in the much-needed intersection of gender and displacement. What sets this book apart is Saha’s nuanced awareness of his position as a researcher based in India, Bengal. This awareness probably feeds his comprehensions that effortlessly switch between the distant and the contiguous. The writings he says belong to the interface between fiction and testimony since they emanate from lived experiences. While quoting Sunetra Gupta he infers: ‘ “Writing is for me a kind of structured dreaming [...] the act of writing embodies for me a very tender junction between the chaos of my dreams and the stern order of the universe,” she is not only speaking about her writing but more importantly she is speaking about her existence as well.’


Although the demands of an academic template preoccupy Saha, he nonetheless makes way for sentences that border on a poetic poignancy. They reflect the multifaceted dilemma of the diasporic individuals. For instance,while discussing Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story “Mrs, Sen’s” in the third chapter titled “Loneliness and Human Relationships”  Saha says: “It is the small things that stoke the soft embers of non-belonging in the diasporic Indian’s mind to keep it burning.” Here Saha refers to Mrs Sen’s inability to drive, a relatively insignificant inconvenience in Bengal,  that poses (quite contrarily)  a big challenge and hence a source of alienation in Boston. The chapter is a study of the complex contexts of belonging, non-belonging, alienation, rootlessness, loneliness, parent-child relationship, the emotional and sexual wants of the diasporic community, and their protean dimensions.


The chapter that follows is called “Identity and Self-fashioning”. It explores the myriad ways in which the diasporic self is constantly negotiating the challenges and demands of selves left behind and selves encountered. It is this state of flux that offers a rich plethora of experiences for the writers. Saha’s reading of Mukherjee’s Jasmine and Desirable Daughters, Lahiri’s The Namesake and The Interpreter of Maladies, Gupta’s Memories of Rain and Sin of Colour, are perceptive. Caught at this ever-demanding crossroads of rootedness and change, Saha underlines the socio-cultural “tightrope” these individuals are constantly subjected to. Quoting R Radhakrishnan Saha highlights the three different phases in the diasporic existence. During the initial phase, immigrants suppress their ethnicity in the name of pragmatism and opportunism. In the second phase the immigrants refuse to subsume political, civil, and moral resistance and assert ethnicity in all its autonomy. The third phase seeks the hyphenated integration of ethnic identity with national identity under conditions that do not privilege the ‘national’ at the expense of the ‘ethnic’.


The fifth chapter called “The Changing West and Postmodernism” is a study of the writers’ perspectives of the Occidental and the ways their writing is shaped by their “distinctive individual diasporic condition”.  Saha observes: “The old Western ideology equates difference with hostility whereas the new Western ideology equates difference with acculturation”. The chapter is an insightful take on the intricate relationship between the changes brought about by globalization and the response to it  by the diaspora. In the postmodern context Saha surmises that experiences of displacement is an ongoing phenomenon. Hence, looking for fixed identities is a misnomer and all the four women diasporic authors invigorate robust debates on the “individual, social,and cultural aspects of self-fashioning”.


The book concludes on a note on how the space between fixed identifications creates the possibility of hybridity. Saha says: “It is perhaps for this reason that Avtar Brah sees the hyphen, the border space, as the space of the diaspora. For Brah it is a paradoxical non-space and for Bhabha it is a spectral third space”. It is this symbolic space of the border that accords multiple perspectives.


This book is a must-have for aspiring researchers and academics to delve into the social, cultural, political transitions the world is undergoing owing to the ever growing  movements across borders. A seminal addition to the field of Diaspora Studies it is also a welcome deviation from the intimidating formality of academic writing. The seamless flow of words makes it a great reading experience for the sheer pleasures of reading.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Essayist

This fascinating collection of memoirs, personal essays and criticisms maps the young essayist Amit Shankar Saha's journey from his school days, to his days at the university as a doctoral scholar, and his emergence as a poet, curator, and assistant professor at a university. The 36 essays included in this volume is a rich melange that captures the essayist's varying moods and areas of critical interest that range from Amartya Sen's Lecture on 'Justice', Post Postcolonialism, the erudition of Dr Santanu Majumdar to innocuous subjective recollections such as 'My first writing experience', 'Calcutta Book Fair and Me' and 'How a Conference made me ponder' among others. This volume will surely motivate and inspire young students and scholars to go forward on their very own special expeditions, by tracking Amit Shankar Saha's evolving odyssey as a scholar, poet, critic and essayist who has recorded with enthusiasm and critical understanding his varied experiences and responses to the world around him and the world within him. Ranging from intellectual discourse to sensitive impressions, this collection will undoubtedly prove that poet and critic Amit Shankar Saha is a skilled prose stylist as well. 

-          Sanjukta Dasgupta (Blurb)

A Young Essayist’s Odyssey: How Saha’s Book Maps His Intellectual Growth

Different Truths

Review by Sutanuka Ghosh Roy

Amit Shankar Saha is an award-winning short story writer, poet and academic. The title A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Essayist is intriguing for it reminds us of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man first published in 1916, the story of a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age narrative that follows Stephen Dedalus’s intellectual and emotional development – the journey from childhood to adulthood, exploring his struggles with family expectations, religion, and the scholarly pursuit of artistic expression. “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Essayist” is a collection of 36 essays that “maps the young essayist from his school days to his days at the university as a doctoral scholar, and his emergence as a poet, curator, and assistant professor at a university,” writes Sanjukta Dasgupta. The collection is an eclectic mix of memoirs, personal essays, and criticism that expresses a range of ideas and emotions serving as a conduit bridging theory, art, and criticism.

The first essay “My First Writing Experience” sets the tune to the collection as it successfully captures the tryst of a young boy with writing/destiny the – ‘germinal experience which has birthed all that has come afterwards’. The famous American photographer Mary Ellen Mark had once observed “In a portrait, you always leave part of yourself behind”. In all the essays of the collection under review, we find that Saha has left part of himself behind—taking his time to allow his writing to bloom and flourish. He reminiscences, “While doing my graduate studies in Mathematics the world turned Kafkaesque and I knew that I was not doing what was my vocation. I had a sense of non-belonging not because I liked mathematics less but because I liked literature more” (“The Castle—Franz Kafka”).  “Remembering a Room and an Age” where innocence-laden pranks—a slice of the past is crafted with care and written with flair.

Some essays “Revisiting Amartya Sen’s Lecture on “Justice”, “Symposium on Literary Activism”, “How a Conference Made Me Ponder”, “Tagore: Place and Space”, “Post Postcolonialism”, “At the Mohini Mohan Bhattacharya Memorial Lecture” help the readers delve into how seminars, symposiums lectures by iconic literary figures shape expression, identity, and desire, reflecting on the perpetual process of constructing and reconstructing literary theories and criticisms. These recordings of intellectual discourses will motivate young researchers to find their calling.” Sudeep Sen’s ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ is a fine essay where Saha has wielded his pen like a master craftsman –unerringly capturing the essence of Sudeep Sen’s poetic experiences and his emotional responses to them—“In ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ Sudeep Sen Meditates but the reader too can ruminate with him for this is the time for contemplation when the world is passing through a time like never before”.

“The Psychological Sense of Exile and Alienation: A Selection from Anita Desai’s Fictional Characters” projects a modern sensibility with clean crisp ideas, razor-sharp analysis, and a play of ratiocinations pulling the readers right into the critical matrix. In another essay “Rabindranath Tagore and the Paradox of Modernity” Saha urges to extract the maximum meaning from every component of Tagore’s concept of modernity and its associated paradoxes. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Essayist provides a lens through which readers can examine personal and artistic identity intersections. The volume is surely going to influence subsequent generations of writers and thinkers. Its exploration of individualism, artistic rebellion, and the tautness between tradition and novelty will continue to resonate in contemporary discussions of the identity and self-discovery of the artist as a young essayist. 

Illicit Poems

Business Standard

Little letters of love

Uttaran Das Gupta 

Amit Shankar Saha has quietly carved a niche for himself in the overactive world of Indian poetry in English, through a poetic style that’s devoid of any hurry. He is the author of two books, Balconies of Time and Fugitive Words, and also the founder of Rhythm Divine Poets, the cohort of Kolkata-based English versifiers. His poetry is shot through with the sort of aesthetics with which readers of Bengali poetry are familiar. Saha’s latest book, Illicit Poems, the one under review, is a slim volume of 30 short lyrics, that will pleasantly surprise those unfamiliar with his work and not disappoint in the least those familiar with him.


Take for instance the poem, “Love Letter”, which appears early in the book: “All my love letters / I write to you, / my mailman steals / them every day.” One is left wondering if the mailman is a belligerent figure, a competitor in love. The poet/narrator let the intended audience know that the mailman — a curiously American word in an Indian poem — is aware of all his dark secrets and illicit desires. The words of the letters, like words in a poem, take on a life of their own, developing “Stockholm Syndrome” for their thief.


Anyone familiar with canonical Bengali poetry will immediately recognise the echoes of Shakti Chattopadhyay’s “Hemanter Aranye Ami Postman” (The Postman in the Autumn Forest). In Chattopadhyay’s poem, the postman he observes in a yellow forest of autumn is careful with his consignment, unlike other postmen. “They are not like our postmen,” writes Chattopadhyay, “from whose hands are lost continuously our relaxed love letters.” When the figure of the postman reappears in Saha’s poem, he is no more a careful or a careless figure, but a thief of love. This puts the poet in a strange predicament: “My words to you / never gets delivered / and you think I’m / not a man of words”.


If Bengali poetry is an influence, so is canonical English poetry. (Saha has a PhD in English from Calcutta University and is a college teacher.) This influence is self-conscious. In the short lyric “Wannabe”, he pays tribute to T S Eliot while also gently ridiculing the desire of many Indian English poets to imitate his poetry: “We were out for a smoke in the balcony / when Eliot joined us for company. / Etherized in his presence we / discussed some bullshit, some poetry.” Quoting from “...Prufrock”, fashionable among English undergraduates, is deprived of gravitas by the close placement of “bullshit” and “poetry” in the same line. The poem ends: “The high priest and the poet left me / amidst the smoke a wannabe.”


Love is a recurring theme in the book, but so is the poetic process — and both are a sort of throwing the gauntlet to the readers. “Let us go for a fling / shock the world,” invites Saha in the poem “Imagine”, a title borrowed from John Lennon’s popular song. The world is too much, too boring, something like a “solved puzzle”. The invitation continues: “So let us build an eddy, / organise a turbulence, / trouble the waters, / rock the boat / and take the blame.” In the last couple of lines, the poet makes himself vulnerable and invites the reader to do so as well: “See, I have betrayed my feelings for you, / will you now do the same?”


In many ways, writing — like love — is a process of making oneself vulnerable. Saha does not hesitate to do so anywhere in this book, and that is what makes it more than ordinary.


The last six poems of the book are inspired by “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago. While all the other poems in the book are in free verse, unrhymed, these six poems take on a sort of singsong rhythm. The theme is still love, but the poems rise like a crescendo, or perhaps the sizzle of a mountain river. “My dear Lara / What is love? / Love is a ride on the flyover / with the wind in your hair” One can almost see the narrator and beloved, on a bike maybe, driving over a flyover in Kolkata, after a spell of rain, with their hair open, their heads thrown back in the wind. Proceeds from the earnings of this book will support poet Linda Ashok’s crowd-funding endeavour to provide skills training to women reeling from the effects of Covid-19 and Cyclone Amphan.


Fugitive Words

The Journal of Commonwealth Literature | SAGE | 2020 Vol. 55(4) 590–633 DOI: 10.1177/0021989420962768

[In] Fugitive Words, the poetic canvas brings the animate and inanimate imaginatively within its purview: “Trees squat on tall grasses,/ a pond cries for drowned souls,/ plantains droop into muddy sleep,/ fishes breathe hyacinth dreams,/ weeds and stones outlive the night.” An intense femininity informs the collection and Saha’s observant and reflective gaze captures the complex aspects of women’s lives.

—   Payal Nagpal and Shyamala A. Narayan 

The Asian Age - Polyphony by Sudeep Sen, 13-03-2020

Amit Shankar Saha’s second book, Fugitive Words, is a joy to read — both for the poetry’s tight economy, and for the oblique narratives. His “words” carefully delineate the poems’ plot — direct and abstract, intimate and universal. Here’s an extract from ‘Ruminations from a Sick Bed’, set in tercets: “Last Sunday / around 1:15pm / I turned old. // A hundred butterflies / gathered for winter jamming / inside my left knee joint. // A couple of snakes / crossed over each other / inside my right foot. // … // A sad black cardigan / hugged gently my white shirt / in a lonesome embrace. // … // Winter wars have left me / with broken birthday candles / and an air of insanity.” There is a wonderfully imagistic quality carrying all the hallmarks of a good poem — precision of image-making, careful use of words/phrases, judicious use of line-breaks, and an ease of linguistic flow. I look forward to this poet’s promising future.

Muse India ISSN: 0975-1815

‘Fugitive Words’

Gopal Lahiri


Way of Words and Images


Poetry thrives in sunshine as well as in darkness but without knitting words or leaps of imagination, we lose the pleasure of promises. ‘Fugitive Words,’ the second collection of poems by Amit Shankar Saha, interweaves words with memory and despair, language and history that reflects and reveals the inner space and refracting reality. This is a collection that achieves resonance between an awareness and a landscape of elusive words. He approaches poetry with humanity and warmth and his poems thoughtfully touch on themes of identity, nostalgia, love, religion and society.


Let me pause to say: Saha has real gifts as a poet and it’s impossible not to hear the meta-textual echo of words in his luminous poems reaching from the precise to general.


Dustin Pickering has rightly pointed out in his introduction, ‘Saha is an expert in economy of words, picking them and sorting them in the most emotive and empowering way. They speak for more than Saha himself. These ‘fugitive words’ are literal fugitives, escaping criminal proceedings brought against them.


Reasonably sheltered but far from prearranged, this collection of poems is poignant and inviting in their familiar ease, broadening from the grounding details of life to manage to be both realistic as well as indefinable.


We know that language is a vehicle of history. Some of his poems put an argument – where does reality end and the dream begin? And if reality is the pit stop constant, have we been dreaming all along? Those poems feel intensely familiar yet disquietingly inexplicable. His poems are informed and sometimes unwelcoming, even though enlivened up by his refreshing way of words. Most of his poems seem to have absorbed the essence of the fugitive mind, the sense of time extending and shrinking and prevailing all at a time.


The opening poem, ‘My Words’, enters in the world shining in the light of dusk and introduces a new territory where the words enjoy freedom in the open space.


my words, those that live in huts by the tracks,

who owns their lives in this light of dusk?


They clamber into my poems

like a broken bridge half-way into a river,

like a broken roof half-way into a house. (My Words)


It can almost be about an aggressive inner self wondering at the ways we cross and hurt one another. There is porousness to lines such as these which float up and away. More common are minute observations, surreal moments and moving uncertainties. This and many other of the poems involve yearning and I love the stillness of the imagery, as intensely quiet.


A slow train at Talit

looks befuddled at fields

of ripe-green memories (The Eyes)


What is all the more remarkable is that he is neither emotive nor tedious nor foreseeable in his poems. The poet introduces a voice that intent on investigating spaces we do not ordinarily occupy and the arresting lines keep the readers on their toes –


My solitude becomes frail

as memories starve in the night


I, a water diviner, search

for a solvent to sustain life (The Water Diviner)


A short and startling poem, ‘Ajar’ possibly tells us more about inner self, exploring the sense that the meaning of things is not to be found in the obvious, in what is explicitly stated even though memory ‘ruptures neurons, punctures brains’. And yes, it is the quieter poems that resonate, that marvel the commoners –


From a slightly parted window

Light comes and settles in

My room at night. Lingers on

one wall for long. Staring

at my sleepless body. Soon

it will be dawn. Memory

too slightly parts my mind (Ajar)


There is melancholy that rings true in his poems at times yet his lyricism ripples with light. The nature is vibrant in his poems but not at the expense of human connection. The poet’s ‘fugitive’ words at times detain the readers. In this collection he shows poetry as a form of literary close work, reimagining as critical appreciation.


Ra Sh has mentioned very rightly, ‘Amit’s poems in their journey with words and memories are not limited to any singular species of memories, but are drawn from many histories and geographies.’


Let us plagiarize a chunk of verse

From a Hindu poem and profane it

With the lines of a Muslim poem (A Poem for Dark Times)


While the diversity of content and forms at times dip in lost love and silent grief, cynicism and sarcasm keep the freshness of the wordplay strikingly alive. The love of indifference is everywhere – in a literary sense, too. In particular, he borrows light from the surround and history that quivers between ominous and fresh doggedness to preserve. The locales are the right additive here and one can savour the sublimity of the following lines –


A little ahead of Shyambati,

night sheds lights to reveal


its mysterious shape.

It’s like walking into


Somebody’s confession.

At the bend of Ratan Palli (Convalescent)


I can’t put it down and have kept returning to these poems by their beauty and clarity. The prismatic output of the words is among the most significant, paradoxical, advanced and immense. A tender and succinct poem is as follows –


I never came close enough

to register your fragrance

days become months

and then there is an odour-

putrid, putrescent.

I know it is the stench of memory. (Olfaction)


Sometimes Saha digs deep and words are his reserve accretion. His subtle observation, ‘I make love to the lump/and it transforms/ into a poem’. Holding history and the contemporary in his palm, the poet displays his poetic canvas with an unwavering eye and his poems provoke and surprise with nuanced expression –


Missing you is like winter

Spent hidden under an old quilt

In the dark, without a torch,

Without being spied, without being sought. (Abyss)


This poem reminds us of the words we play with our minds to calm our own edginess. Saha’s wordplay and local narratives take us deeper into environs and familiar places as they shape boundaries between what might be and what really is. Saha writes poems that are loving evocations of surreal moments and memory, waking up the heart and rallying hope. He embraces the grace and virtually paints with words –


You find a dried-up yellow rose

Inside the pages of a broken book.


The story of the broken rose

Obscures the story of the yellow book


One day my books with your words

Will reach some unknown readers. (Windows)


Here is a poet whose voice is so strikingly rich that his wordplay requires no background information to appreciate. Some of his poems carry the shining presence of alliteration and assonance lacing with lyricism yet create the mellow sound of despair.


Staring long at a grey patch of green,

It seems the greys are the greens

And ungreatness a greatness

And all deceiving undeceiving. (The Greatest Love Poem)


What strikes me most in his write, is the weaving of the words and generation of metaphors. Shadowy, unsettling and mindful, these poems linger through rare images and glowing words.


I undo my smoke-leaden

Tresses onto my yellow skin

To hide the marks of Basanta

Left by a migrating spring. (Grey Love)


Some of his poems make real efforts in combining memories and a surreal present in reimagining the familiar to desired effect. His poems are thoughtful but subtly formal, distant but accessible. This poem is full of surprise and wonder and conjures the rainy landscape within soul. Perhaps the rains are like tears without saltiness as the poet envisages elsewhere –


It is raining inside me

but you can’t see

Clouds of words enter me

but you can’t see (Rain Within)


His poems delving deeply into contradictions at times yet agree with its final tally. Nostalgia and grief surface throughout Saha’s writing, intent on uncovering the incongruous beneath the everyday life, even as it remains hushed, detached and blurry. Not to be stuck in a groove, the buoyant mobility and full of unexpected fronts in his poems leave the readers enthralled.


At the waterfall the wind ruffles

the hair of water, shaking off drops

like flakes of dandruff from the head

of a crevice top. How unkempt? (The Waterfall)


There is a joy in encountering a collection that insists with exceptional grace how to craft a painterly line with elusive words moving without pressure and finally leaves an indelible impression. This book has an urgency about being alive and a quieter seriousness in reconnoitring precisely the life, love and memories and raising its voice in the ‘adverse time space’. If his poems are to believed, there is nothing as consoling as ‘word’ in particular. Fugitive Words reflects a significant deviation from ‘Balconies of time’, the debut collection of Saha’s poems. Tender and artful, this book is a gentle celebration of life and beyond, a spiritual exploration of inner soul.


The cover page demonstrates how much can be achieved by not overdoing it with extravagant illustrations. The book is a must for every poetry lover.

-Gopal Lahiri

Setu Bilingual Journal


Memory Ecologies: A Review of Amit Shankar Saha’s Fugitive Words.


Review by: Sutanuka Ghosh Roy



  Fugitive Words is the second collection of poems (first being Balconies of Time) by Amit Shankar Saha, an award-winning poet and short story writer. He is the co-founder of Rhythm Divine Poets and fiction editor of Ethos Literary Journal. As Dustin Pickering, in his foreword to the volume, describes, “Amit S. Saha explores memory and desire through the lens of loss and despair. The grief is beyond personal”. “…As we travel these poems, we are introduced to a scientific understanding that is compatible with humanist spirituality”. Ra Sh in the blurb to the book writes, “Amit’s poems in their journey with words and memories are not limited to any singular species of memories, but are drawn from many histories and geographies.” The poems bring forth the literary mediation of memory and experience set in the narratives of particular time, space and milieu. The understanding of memory mediated through the poems refers to a specific modality of reflection by which the poet examines lived experiences ingrained into poetry. The approach is to arrive at propositions which locate poetry as an archive for memory. In the poem “Paisley”, Amit writes:


 You, who will find her one evening smiling

at me while wishing an untimely goodbye

and leave me with you under a roof roofless,

know her footsteps echo an ancient

amnesia of the beginning where

she left paisleys of footprints on the leaves

for generations of my rebirth to see

and not recognize the fossils of the past (25)


Memory here is not referred to as an abstraction per se- but a way of passing through the empirical in order to prepare new entities of interpreting poetry.


In the poem “Spices”, Amit writes,

In Paradise Pickle Factories

smell of grandmothers sits

cross-legged to tell stories

of spices who went on long

voyages across the seas.

In that long long past

Forefathers and foremothers

of fenugreek and cardamom

traded in gold and silver

in the bazars of Persia.

… Today in my turmeric mind

when I recall their memory,

listening to smells, smelling stories,

tastes of a bay-leaf past

seep in with all the oils and cloves. (23)



 It is important not to see memory as the inevitable result of merely an accumulation of data or information. The varied fields of poetic representations have changed the contours of memory formation and re-cognition which leads to new conceptual innovations and ideas. Another poem “Your Grandmother’s Sari”, speaks of his grandmother who has left many saris for his mother who wears them now. Along with the saris he is reminded of her habit of having betel nuts. The chief object of Amit’s poem is to determine the relationship between memory of everyday experience, lived events and its translation into poetry.


The poet stoically sits through the night reveals layers of personal passions, social insights and aesthetic delight,

If I remember you tonight,

it is because my fugitive

memory escapes the flaccid hours

spent on the banks of forgetfulness. (“Scattering”,49).


The comparative study of both the written way of representing memory and reproduction of memory is the central argument here.


The poet is quite an expert in economy of words carefully picking and choosing them. The words speak for more than poet himself...

my words, those that live in huts by the tracks,

who owns their lives in this light of dusk?

They clamber into my poems

like a broken bridge half-way into a river,

like a broken roof half-way into a house. (“My Words”,15)


These words are “fugitive words”, they are literal fugitives, they escape the legal proceedings against them and find themselves rounded up in the verses.

I have jailed my heart,

no fugitive words

will escape from it

except in disguise

like those trespassers. (“Fugitive Words”, 65)


   The poet thus adopts a human approach to reach those dark fugitive lands of our essence. In this dark land he speaks of rains,

Two drops of water dribble

And settle on a scooter seat but

Their meniscuses don’t meet.

The days become wet and sticky

Like folded damp paper. (“Forgetting the Rains”, 60).


In some of his poems like “This Bijoya”, “Autumning”,”Grey Love”, “Rai”, “Brinda”, “Binodini” Amit does the “code-mixing”, having a dialogue between Bengali and English words, which is integral to the poems ideas of place as well as identity. Words like “Bijoya”, “Hemanta”, “Rai”, “Binodini” reflects the Indianness of the sociolinguistic trends in India. The long poem “Lahore Bomb Blast Series” speak volumes, and pulls the heartstrings!”The Hind Shawl Repairing House” is steeped in nostalgia and leave the readers to ruminate. Fugitive Words uses stored memory for future use and the poems in this collection acts as a repository. Unlike a human mind it is not prone to everyday degeneration. Through these acts one visits, revisits the past as well as the present and future. The artistic cover add to the aesthetic pleasure of the reading experience.

-Sutanuka Ghosh Roy

XS: Not a Poetry Review by Jhelum Chattaraj 26-7-2019

Poetry without Hashtags: Not a Poetry Review of Amit Shankar Saha’s “Fugitive Words” 


“Fugitive Words” is a collection without hashtags: it is unpretentious and effortless to the core. The poems have a background score too, and it’s Billie Meyrs’s “Kiss the Rain.” I was struck by the resemblance between the charming vulnerability of Amit’s poems and Billie’s voice. The song like a faithful dog followed me all through the read. A strange but pleasurable experience :)


Amit’s words arrive gently and his aching voice, like an ardent Romantic tells you that there is much salubrity in the ordinary beauty of life. In a Keatsian fashion, he creates synesthetic experiences in his writing and sometimes he evokes Pablo Neruda too. His style is lyrical, uncluttered and evokes pertinent conversations between nature and human nature. It was refreshing to find the lesser known places of Bengal like Bolpur, Rishra and Talit. The Bolpur poems carry a Wordsworthian fragrance: rain, summers, small, mysterious windows:

It never snows in Bolpur.

The midnight of my hair

starts to fade. (lines 1-3)


In other poems, such as “Spices,” he churns up memory and nostalgia. The poem, “Paisley,” reminds one of Agha Shahid Ali’s words on Kashmir. Amit’s tone is fragile and reflective.


I particularly enjoyed the poem, “Grandmother”:

What if our grandmothers come back one day

from a parallel universe to re-

claim all that they have left behind and find

how wars have eaten up the family

heirlooms or partition devoured them, how...

but these are negative thoughts and I must

not harbour them. (lines 15-22)


Poems like “Bijoya”, and many others, make the collection a cultural trip back to Bengal:

A late hour interacts

with your kamala sari.

I walk into

a cafe of thought,

order a wok

of Banalata Sen. (lines 1-6)


The poem, “The Outsider,” illustrates Amit’s striking imagination:

I imagine my imagination

stunted by language of power,

and all the words I birth

become husbands and fathers. (lines 10-13)


Later in the collection, the poet offers some succinct lines like:

Mothers are like nations:

they make us emotional.  (“Late Mother’s day Celebration”, 12-13)


The poems also talk about sub-continental politics in a terse voice. However, he does not dwell much on that, instead probes deeper into the politics of the body and self in poems like,“The air that ate eternity” and “Ruminations from a sick bed.” The collection has seventy poems and many of them, those with a relaxed tone are eclipsed by poems that insist to stay with you, and share a drink or two as you analyse them.


"Fugitive Words" will be thoroughly enjoyed by readers who prefer poetry as a turncoat, a secret harbour where one can safely anchor emotions, sit back, relax and marvel at the simple and rustic truths of life.

Balconies of Time


Amit Shankar Saha’s debut collection of poems Balconies of Time emphasizes a poetic spirit that can engage words and rhythm in a felicitous fusion. So the poet’s sensitivity and skill in the use of words to create emotive images exhibit a refreshing brilliance of concision and cadence as he writes, “Some winters are so cold you need to hug a hope for warmth”. A student, teacher and researcher of Western literature and Indian English Literature, Saha has admirably used the English language with felicity, demonstrating the malleability of the English language, one of its outstanding merits.

The forty eight poems in Amit Shankar Saha’s collection Balconies of Time, traverse a wide trajectory, from Awadh to Park Street and Southern Avenue, from Uxbridge to California. The poems also bear the unmistakable stamp of a diligent student of western literature, as some of the poems are titled, Gyre, Double Helix, Cryptology and Delilah. Delilah ends with the telling line, “gaze eyeless at Gaza”. Apart from the rich diversity of content one  noticeable feature of Saha’s chiselled poems are their brevity, concision and the internal rhythmic nuances that enfold each new thought, each imagined image, each emotive expression that blends sense and sensibility seamlessly. Amit Shankar Saha’s debut volume of poems, Balconies of Time, will surely inspire newer generations of poets to play with words meaningfully, in order to create timeless aesthetic expressions.

- Foreword, Sanjukta Dasgupta

Cicatrix of time

By Saima Afreen  |  Express News Service  |   Published: 27th February 2018 04:12 AM  | 

Last Updated: 27th February 2018 04:12 AM  |   A+A A-   | 

The New Indian Express, Hyderabad


HYDERABAD:We are home to other beings, objects and places revisited by the memories of the same every now and then. The landscapes within thus emerge as an interplay of light and darkness, shifting to give space for fissures left unattended. The lacunae develop their own lava and find a way to erupt, emerge: sometimes all at once, sometimes one by one, step by step, word by word. Poet Amit Shankar Saha’s first book ‘Balconies of Time’ is an attempt to bring forward these hidden geographies of memories recorded in bricks of mind’s own time. The body just acts as the host for the colonies of these recollections.

The poet explores both the mind and body to set alight dormant kilns of reminiscences within. The slow flame flickers lighting up the vast cities housed inside the atoms. The poet begins a microscopic search dealing with landscapes first. That’s how the introductory poem in the collection is titled ‘Awadh’ with the mention of Ghalib, the great Urdu-Persian bard, who once lived in Calcutta at Ramdulal Street when he visited the British Capital in February 1828. Amit, too, lives in the city and one can notice the delicacy of an Urdu couplet surreptitiously seep in the last lines of the poem:And again the night stumbles in unsteadily,Like a poem disinterred from one’s memory.

The simplicity of the words define the poet’s craft as he chooses clipped lines, concise fragments to let the light within his stanzas flow. And his images are of everyday life lacquered with the beauty of thoughts. The journey of letters continues sometimes in a train that gathers ‘Chips of abandoned sleep’ traversing to the mental landscape of celebrated US-Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali and kneading his words into: “Mad heart, how brave can you still be?” The indescribable happens here. The heart is questioned: a complex mesh of arteries that are also silk routes to feeling[s] as tender as the first snowflake.

The streets in the heart also house balconies hanging from pillars of distant times that forget their existence and which axis they belong to. Amit, in his title poem explore the madness of heart that appears and disappears jumping from one elevation to another leaving nothing but ashen moon: the harvest of time as a reward for the mad heart of the poet which he carries as grey dust in the streets of Calcutta that several other poets and artistes have done before. ‘Balconies of Time’ is a guide-map of memories that are nothing but work-in-progress. Amit practises this cartography not just with words, but heart, too.

-Saima Afreen