Top Middle Eastern Literary Magazines to submit your Creative Writing to.

 

Hello!

Here is a new list of magazines to submit your work!

We, at The Bombay Review have a special focus on emerging and established writing from the Middle Eastern region. So if you are from or write about the region, and wish to have your work published with us, submit away! Our themed editions, published or forthcoming are on: Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, and Egypt. While submissions for these open regularly, we sure look for great writing all year round. Details below, along with the list of other literary journals/magazines. We are constantly working to update this list, if you know of a publication that can be here, drop a comment below. The list is in no particular order.

–  Editor, The Bombay Review



The Bombay Review
Year established: 2014
Published from: New York City & Mumbai
Genres: Fiction, Poetry, Essays, Art, Reviews, Interviews, Culture pieces
Submission period: All year
Type: Online + Print
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: None
Payment: Ranges from Nil to $50
Editors: Kaartikeya Bajpai | Rochelle Potkar



13 LITERARY MAGAZINES
The Middle East
(English/Bilingual)
Short fiction, poetry, translations, reviews, screenplays, essays, and more.

The Bosphorus Review Of BooksThe Bosphorus Review of Books

Year established: 2017
Published from: Istanbul, Turkey
Genres: Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Book reviews
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Luke Frostick and Thomas Parker


new-journal

Rowayat

Year established: 2013
Published from: Egypt & Kent, United Kingdom
Genres: Short fiction, Flash fiction, Poetry
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital + Print
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Sherine ElBanhawy


Sukoon

Year established: 2013
Published from: Dubai, UAE
Genres: Poetry, Short fiction, Essays
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Rewa Zeinati


Sail

Year established: 2010
Published from: Dubai, UAE
Genres: Articles
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Iman Ben Chaibah 


ArabLit Quartlerly

Year established: 2018
Published from: Unknown
Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Essays
Submission period: Rolling basis
Type: Digital + Print
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil to $500
Editor: M Lynx Qualey


Pin by IAA Libraries on Books from Around the World | Literature ...Banipal

Year established: 1998
Published from: London, UK
Genres: Translations
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital + Print
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Margaret Obank


Jahanamiya

Year established: 2017
Published from: Saudi Arabia, Michigan, USA
Genres: Poetry, Fiction, and Non-fiction writing
Submission period: Rolling basis
Type: Digital
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Ahd Niazy


Al Jadid Magazine

Year established: 1995
Published from: California, USA
Genres: Essays, Features, Reviews, Interviews, Translations
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital + Print
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Elie Chalala


Rusted Radishes

  • Year established: 2011
  • Published from: Beirut, Lebanon
  • Genres: Comics, Artwork, Translations, Fiction, Creative nonfiction, Poetry
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website | Instagram | Facebook
  • Submission fee: Nil
  • Payment: Nil
  • Editor: Rima Rantisi

Untitled design (1)Pars Times

Year established: 2002
Published from: Iran
Genres: Interviews, Articles, Poetry, Short fiction
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Unknown


Parsagon

Year established: 2013
Published from: Iran
Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Unknown


Al-Madaniya

Year established: 2018
Published from: Yemen
Genres: Essays, Short fiction, Nonfiction
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Hamza Shiban


The Istanbul Review

Year established: 2014
Published from: Istanbul, Turkey
Genres: Poetry, Fiction
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Hande Zapsu Watt

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Poetry | ‘Hope’, ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Deekshita Rajesh Athreya | School Student Writing

Hope

A shadow of darkness fills my gaze,
As the nightly air patrols around
The once lovely countryside all in a haze,
So deathly a silence, my heartbeats resound.

The moon appears to heal my wounded soul,
Emerging as a ray of hope through a gaping hole,
Sending a subtle hint straight into my heart,
If darkness comes, light is not far apart.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

A fruitless day spent idling on the couch,
was made endearing by a cuckoo’s call on the porch.
A single note that rang out, pure and clear,
Enchantingly beckoning its near and dear.

Come on comrades! Let us rejoice,
Sans pollution, nature has regained her poise,
For, the heartless humans are still behind bars,
Just this once, we can truly see the stars.

A single voice with so much hope,
Of expressing it, no music has scope,
All the guilt the humans are stalling,
Has been brought forth by the Cuckoo’s calling.

Deekshita Rajesh Athreya is a 15 year old student at Udgam School For Children, Ahmedabad. She has a passion for the English language and enjoys reading. Her favourite authors are J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. She loves Robert Frost’s poetry.

Poetry | ‘Glass Grows’ & Other Poems by U. Sai Sruti | School Student Writing

Glass Grows

we live in a glass world
glass dolls and glass minds
growing out of glass jungles
glass bodies cracking and green
this glass shatters in this glowing stream
of green blood and green hearts
bleeding blackening grease
green governments eyeing the glass green
and piercing glass into these bodies
that spew their spleen of earth-shattering green
glass breaking, burning, brewing
glass minds that grow glass ideas
and pierce shards into these green goats
glass ministers take glass decisions
as the glass pushes through the
cracking earth sprouting out
of these concrete jungles
into the glass tongues of these
glass people silencing these glass voices
you are glass, and I am glass too
living in a world that is growing glass roots

lies my mother told me

mama said she saw the purple flowers decorating my back
she also saw pomegranate blood dripping from my thighs
she says that daddy loves me a lot
but mama why does it hurt so much
when he runs his hands along the whip
and paints my back with flowers
mama is wrong
this cannot be love
mama lied to me
and i only realized that when
i saw mama’s back littered with wild petunias

How to Get a New Heart

the thud of my footsteps
reverberates with the sound 
of my heart leaping 
out of my body
and falling onto the middle of
the road
I watch as it
vibrates with so much intensity
and finally comes to a stop
there is a cavity
in my chest now
where my heart once was
I look at it in desperation
waiting for it to
show me something
give me a sign
I try to pick it up
and put it back
where it’s supposed to be
“you are not supposed to be here,
go back inside”
and suddenly
a car runs over my heart
as I watch in horror
my poor crushed heart
now has blood leaking
from every cut
blood splattered on the streets
how do you feel safe
when the ones protecting you
are the ones inflicting this pain
tell me
teach me
how do I feel alive again
how do I feel alive again
how do I feel alive again
ink marks on my fingertips spread
as I keep writing
painting these pages
with my heartbreak and sorrow
one day I will scream these poems
and you will listen
someday, I will find
a new heart
waiting to beat
full of life
I will feel alive again
or so I tell myself

When the Reality Sets In

when the reality sets in
his buoyant veneer cracks
as the truth 
slowly crawls its way to him through his façade
cracking it little by little
as he clutches his little sister’s lifeless body in his hands
the soulless body (he is not used to saying corpse, please don’t say it)
staring into his being with beguiling chasms (please wake up, I love you so much it hurts)
his mother stands there and screams
as the reality is slowly hammering itself
into his brain (I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you, please forgive me)
screams lacerate his throat
he spills honey words into her ear
waiting for his love to manifest itself
in the form of a miracle
miracle
he wants a miracle to bring long-gone sister back home
as he shakes violently
hugging her close to his chest (can’t you see that I’m hurting? please come back)
the universe gyrated the day Esteban’s sister
put herself to sleep
fifteen years later, eidolons haunt Esteban as he sits on the kitchen stool. “Eat up Julia, we don’t want to be late for school now, do we?” he says, turning his head towards the empty kitchen stool next to him.

An Ode to My Past Self

this is an ode to my younger self
and to my present self
and to my future self
sunshine and candies sound marvellous
but that is not what
it will be like
every
second
every
minute
every
day
tick, tick, tick
you see, time will not stop for you
and there will be days
where your voice will slither
and hide in a hidden curve
of a hidden place
in your intestine
where it will stay there
till what feels like eternity
trapped
and sometimes not
and your tongue will swallow
all the venom coated lies you tell yourself
that sometimes drip of honey
honey
liquorice
sugar
sweet
salty
lies
lies that will break your home
lies that will break you
lies that will forever remain lies
truth will stare you down
it will make you queasy
jittery uncomfortable
your neck will itch and your insides will twist
twist into a knot
the kind that takes patience to undo
and that day your mouth will run dry
your fingers cold
your body will be on fire
fire
fire
you will think of sacrificing yourself
and succumbing to the
honey
liquorice
sugar
sweet
salty
fatal
lies
but that day
stare your fears down
stare the doubt down until
you burn holes in its head and it stumbles
backing away from
the truth looming over you
find that voice
and tell yourself that you will be alright
that you will do this again
and again
and again
and again
till the truth seeps through the crevasses of your mind
and stays there
maybe it will never stay
but tell yourself
that you will fight this fight
every
second
every
minute
every 
day
till you feel alright again

Dark Girl’s Magic

Some days I wake up
Brush my teeth with anxiety
And braid my hair with pain
There are days I chafe at my dark skin
As insults burn holes in my heart as I walk in
The school corridors
A sense of alienation hammering into me
I carry anguish on my shoulders
I feel like my soul is being crushed by boulders
Boulders of my thoughts and your words
Standing in front of the mirror I scratch my skin
As the sin of me being dark-skinned weighs me down
You pointed at me and laughed
As I stood there staring at the ground
Waiting for the earth to split open and swallow me whole

Aunty tells me that I am pretty for a dark-skinned girl
That I have nice hair and that almost compensates for the colour of my skin
No, I don’t want your almost compliments
I suddenly forget how to breathe as it slowly dawns on me
That dark is an atrocity
I am almost convinced that the universe
Is making me pay for all my sins
My world gyrated the day I told myself
I can never be enough, not in this skin

One day I thought I finally found
A solution to my
problem
White semi-liquid substance encapsulated in a bottle
My hopes and dreams died
As I frantically slapped it on my face
And rubbed it in until my skin was sore
I screamed
I screamed in rage
As I looked at the bottled in duplicity

You see melanin is only pretty
When it comes in tiny amounts
That day the oceans collided
and my cries were futile
But thank the Gods it didn’t work
My skin is not a painting open to your criticisms
I am not a doll sitting by the window waiting
to be admired by strangers
you see, I was taught that dark skin didn’t deserve to be loved
that I could never love myself
I blame the unrealistic beauty standards set
For young girls and boys
The perfect hourglass figure
The toned muscles
The plump lips
The doe-eyes
And the fair skin
And of course, just the right amount of curves
Stop this

We are going to claim our identities back
We are going to truly find peace in ourselves
So to all those who scratch their skin
And try to bleach it
I say don’t
Stand up for yourself and don’t you drown in dismay
For dark is magic
Dark is beautiful
Dark is elegant
Dark is powerful
Dark is the pupil which sees the world
Stars etched into the crevasses of your mind
And embedded in your arteries
You are made of stardust
My love, you were born from a magnificent supernova
Your skin is as wonderful as the limitless dark depth of the universe
Gold spills from your mouth
There is so much more to you than just your skin
And don’t you cry, o’ moonchild
You have magic running through your veins
Feeling beautiful is loving your thoughts
your mind and your soul
listen not to those
who tell you that you aren’t enough
for you are a child of the dark cosmos
you are more than enough

U. Sai Sruti is a student in her final year of high school at Tagore International School, New Delhi, India. Her writing has been recognised at several forums, most notably Katha Utsav, a national event where she was awarded the grand prize. Rudy Francisco, Nikita Gill and Porsha Olayiwola are her favourite poets.

Top Indian/Asian Literary Magazines to submit your Creative Writing to.

Literary magazines are a catalyst to good publishing in any country, functioning as a parallel industry to traditional book publishing. A rich literary magazine landscape comments on writing being taken seriously, and also nurtures a reading market for aspiring writers. Stimulating intellectual conversations, niche catering, lending support to Creative Writing programs, and providing a platform to be heard, or well, read; surround the larger role of magazines.

In India, South Asia, Africa and certain parts of the world,  literary magazines may have another role to play. Support writing careers. The magazines are a pillar to graduates of literature, passionate readers, bibliophiles, hobbyists; lending them the shoulder to spring start a probable writing career. 

Here, today, we have curated a list of our favorite literary magazines of Indian/Asian origin, publishing steadily for a couple of years. Persons of words in this part of the world, or anywhere else, go ahead and submit your creative writing.

We, The Bombay Review, are also always open to reading your work, publishing your work, and commending your work. Details below.

By Team TBR

The Bombay Review
Year established: 2014
Published from: New York City & Mumbai
Genres: Fiction, Poetry, Essays, Art, Reviews, Interviews, Culture pieces
Submission period: All year
Type: Online + Print
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: None
Payment: $75 for solicited entries
Editors: Kaartikeya Bajpai | Rochelle Potkar


30 
LITERARY MAGAZINES
(Established more than 5 years ago, as of 2020)
Short fiction, poetry, translations, reviews, screenplays, essays, and more.

 

Indian Literature: Sahitya Academy

  • Year established: 1954
  • Published from: New Delhi, India
  • Genres: Poetry, short fiction in English translation and English, critical articles
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Dr. A. J. Thomas

Asymptote Journal

  • Year established: 2015
  • Published from: Taiwan
  • Genres: Unpublished translated poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama; original English-language nonfiction; visual art
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Lee Yew Leong

Jaggery Lit

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Fiction, poetry, essays, art, reviews
  • Submission period: May 1 to July 1
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: $25/piece
  • Payment: $100 for fiction, $25 for nonfiction/poetry/art/reviews
  • Editor: Anu Mahadev

Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Could be defunct)

  • Year established: 2007
  • Published from: Hong Kong + London, UK
  • Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

Spark Magazine

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Short fiction, art
  • Submission period: On a break, currently not accepting submissions
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editors: Anupama Krishnakumar and Vani Viswanathan

The Indian Quarterly

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Mumbai, India
  • Genres: Essays, features, essay-reviews, photo-essays, travelogue, poetry, fiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Print + Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Unknown

Reading Hour

  • Year established: 2011
  • Published from: Bangalore, India
  • Genres: Short fiction, poetry, book reviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Print + Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Unknown 

eFiction India

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Gurgaon, India
  • Genres: Essays, fiction, poetry, art and criticism, interviews, book reviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Nikhil Sharda

The Bangalore Review

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Bangalore, India
  • Genres: Fiction, creative non-fiction, translations, essays
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: $3
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Suhail Rasheed

Himal South Asian Mag

  • Year established: 1987
  • Published from: Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Genres: Long-form reportage, political analysis, essays and opinion, interviews, photo essays, reviews, fiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: USD 100-150
  • Editors: Kanak Mani Dixit

 Muse India

  • Year established: 2004
  • Published from: Secunderabad, Telangana, India
  • Genres: Poetry, short fiction, essays, conversations with writers, book reviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Atreya Sarma U

Helter Skelter

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: Mumbai
  • Genres: Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing: Short fiction, poetry
  • Submission period: Varies, usually November to January
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Arun Kale

The Alipore Post

  • Year established: 2015
  • Published from: Unknown
  • Genres: Poetry, art, photography, comics, interviews, prose
  • Submission period: Check website
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee:
  • Payment:
  • Editor: Rohini Kejriwal

Open Road Review: (To be verified)

  • Year established: 2011
  • Published from: New Delhi, India
  • Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Kulpreet Yadav

Cafe Dissensus

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: New York City, USA
  • Genres: Audio-visual (interviews, conversations), Political articles/essays, Photo essays
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Online
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editors: Mary Ann Chacko, Mosarrap Hossain Khan

Kitaab

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Singapore
  • Genres: Short Stories, Essays on literary criticism, Poetry, Non-fiction – Travelogues, Memoirs, Personal essays, Book Reviews, Author Interviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Zafar Anjum

Wasafiri

  • Year established: 1984
  • Published from: London, UK
  • Genres: Articles, essays, journalistic prose, short fiction and poetry 
  • Submission period: October onwards
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Malachi McIntosh

The Bombay Literary Magazine

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Unknown
  • Genres: Fiction, poetry
  • Submission period: Varies, currently closed
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: Nil
  • Editor – Tanuj Solanki

The Mithila Review

  • Year established: 2016
  • Published from: Delhi, India
  • Genres: Fiction, poetry, non-fiction
  • Submission period: Varies, updates on website. Currently open for poetry, closed for fiction (opens August 2020)
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: Nil to $10 for original poetry, essays, flash stories; $50 for original stories
  • Editor: Salik Shah

Nether (To be verified)

  • Year established: 2009
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Fiction, poetry, art, photography
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital (quarterly) + Print (annual)
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Avinab Datta-Areng

Vayavya (To be verified)

  • Year established: 2011, first published in 2013
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Poetry, prose on poetry, interviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Mihir Vatsa

The Little Magazine (To be verified)

  • Year established: 2001
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Essays, fiction, poetry, novellas, film and theatre scripts
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Antara Dev Sen, Pratik Kanjilal

Setu Billingual

  • Year established: 2016
  • Published from: Pittsburgh, USA
  • Genres: Research articles, book reviews, interviews, poems and short fiction
  • Submission period:
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Anurag Sharma, Sunil Sharma

The Punch Magazine (formerly Byword)

  • Year established: 2016 (formerly Byword)
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Articles (Non-fiction, Poetry, Interviews), Reviews, Photos, Videos, Fiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Online
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: Small donations are welcome
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Shireen Quadri

The Aleph Review

  • Year established: 2017
  • Published from: Pakistan
  • Genres: Prose, poetry
  • Submission period: January to July
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Mehvash Amin

The Missing Slate:

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: Pakistan
  • Genres: Poetry, fiction, non-fiction, photography, visual arts
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Moeed Tariq, Noah Klein

Out of Print

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: Mumbai, India
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Indira Chandrasekhar

Anak Sastra

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: Florida, USA
  • Genres: Short fiction, creative nonfiction, comics, poems, book reviews 
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Kris Williamson

The Asian American Literary Review (Under construction)

  • Year established: 2009
  • Published from: USA
  • Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction
  • Submission period: Jun 1 to Aug 31
  • Type: Digital
  • Website Currently under construction
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: Contributor copies only
  • Editor: Lawrence-Minh Bὺi Davis and Gerald Maa

If we have missed out any literary magazine, which we surely have, please comment below with details and we will take a look. Do note, that we are not considering literary magazines/journals which are less than 3-5 years old.

The above list in not in any particular order.

Poetry | ‘You Will Never Know’, ‘I Was Not Born This Way’ by Priyanjali Negi (15) | School Student Writing

You Will Never Know

It has been almost a year since you left us alone,
And here I lie on my bed recollecting our last conversation over the phone.
Far away from each other,
But the emotions in our hearts were the same. 
My own little brother, 
And I never knew how well he played this hiding game.
During that silence, I went down memory lane.
It seemed quite pleasant then,
But now it pricks my heart causing a severe pain.
Remember, how once in school you were dressed as a fairy 
Is it okay to say that your absence has now become hard to carry?
These old videotapes of you with dad,
Just makes me more helpless and profoundly sad.
Do you know? I still send you messages on the phone.
I still make coffee and listen to “Here Comes the Sun” until dawn.  
No one knows that I sleep with your photo under my bed,
So that when you go to sleep you come to kiss me on my forehead.
I guess you will never know that I still divide my Maggi into equal halves of two,
And trust me.
There are times; I wish I were dead instead of you.


I Was Not Born This Way

I was not born this way
I know I am not unique,
And my thoughts do not belong here.
That is what makes me unable to speak,
And people think I don’t care.

I like to be alone,
I like to stay quiet,
There is an unseen pain in my tone,
As if each day my survival depends on a fight.

A fight not with the people,
A fight not with the world,
But a fight with the evil,
Which on my behalf is truly undeserved.

I sometimes wonder what I have grown into,
And wish for the child in me back.
The child who was always happy,
The child who was never sad.
The child who would be probably be laughing at me,
Looking at the things that I now lack.

Priyanjali Negi is a 15-year-old student from Delhi. She studies at Carmel Convent School. Her favourite poets is Alfred Tennyson and her favourite writer is Ruskin Bond.

Poetry | ‘Dauntless Dreams’ by Subhanjali Saraswati (18) | Student Writing

Paranoia glared through the windows,
She started melting under the heat
Inch by inch,
She lost pounds, sterlings, dollars.
The counties were long gone,
It was now time for the countries.
Perhaps,
Gone were the days the ice melted.
It was frozen still today,
The roads, the ravages, the restless pace.
Crossed by a bullet would have been easier
Simpler even.
Wrath ran through the veins,
Just as throats stopped croaking,
The stomachs synced to a stop.
Pouring thoughts dried up,
Even the moments demanded to be unfelt.
Grains had at last churned death.

The drains were pouring,
Flesh, bones, blood seemed united.
Borne or Born,
Pinned onto a single thought.
Plagued minds ruled the worlds.
Twists, turns, all were straights.

Perfect lines. Dotted I’s.
Traces of laced life.
Dashed through the vigilance.
Worn nails varnished in the pages of history.
Bane? Liquor drove the healthy.
Myriad magic, the sane.
Trash cans lifted to tables,
Torn paper traced into perfect circles.
Lives un-longed for, deaths de-glorified.
Demands dressed in dreams,
Doused in amnesia,
Arousals arrested in anarchy.

Drought was scarce,
Sanguine floods crashed humanity.
Fierce Fire forested in few farms.
Passive lives ran out of machines.
Mannerisms murdered,
Streaked past Survival.

Uncouth vehemence vandalised
Deep sweet darkness.

No light, no right,
Not a penchant of twilight.
Midnight hues were well past.
Paranoia ruled Paris tonight.
Her dust opened doors.
Damsels had departed distress,
Doom was thus ‘daughter-ed’.
Dimensionless depth swept clean,
Directions diverged into allegiance,
All to the beats of her breath.

Subhanjali Saraswati is an 18-year-old first year undergraduate student at University of Hyderabad. She is studying Political Science. Her favourite poet is John Donne.

Student Writing

A new section showcasing young voices in fiction, poetry and non fiction; featuring writing from students in schools and universities aged 19 or below.


Student Writing | Latest Pieces

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Poetry | ‘Fate of the Forgotten’ by Chandana. D (15) | School Student Writing

There goes the isolated fisherman
In his desolate wooden boat,
Trying his best to be restrained from
All the misery that poverty connotes.

The sun has set,
The incessant time goes.
Lost in the sea of the forgotten,
The abandoned fisherman rows.

Maybe if it was not him,
That hope had parted so badly within,
He would have probably been laughing,
With his beloved kin.

Maybe if it was not his cup of resistance,
That had been fed to the brim,
Then it might not be today that he had to face
The question of his existence.

Is it his mistake that he is a misfit?
And to have no special light to emit,
At least he tries to counterpart,
Always trying to find a fresh start.

His mother did nothing but accuse
That her son’s fit to do nothing, but misuse,
But what sin is it to be born disabled,
It’s just like a leg being separated from a table.

The world had rejected him
And averted his presence,
As if that was not enough,
It said that tending him had no sense.

He had always been the jetsam of the ship,
Nothing but a dead fish, a dead nomad.
No one to lead, but hundred and one to preach the quip
“To gain something, loose something my lad.”

Now the poor fisherman can take no more!
If only he had been allowed to bloom,
Like an eagle, he would soar,
And considered his life beyond a boon.

The word is the only one to be blamed,
For the poor man’s hunger and pain
And finally, it made him close his eyes
Never to be opened again.

Chandana. D is a 15 year old, who aspires to highlight the momentous, but often self-effacing and unnoticed segments of life through poetry. She is currently studying in grade 10 at Viswasanti High School, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh.

Poetry | ‘Clueless Nights’ by Ashaani Taneja (15) | School Student Writing

I sat on the muddy brown boulders,
to watch the sun go down,
to see the beautiful night,
I felt the calmness as my hair swayed with wind,
and my wings, which were collapsed earlier,
rose and flapped in the wind,
cutting the current with its black feathers,
which came out of my wings,
blew towards the setting sun.
Through the cracks in the gold glazed sky,
I saw the rest of the angels,
swooshing through the air,
as if all they were trying was,
to convey their freedom to the captured.
I roamed the streets at nights,
every night with hidden wings,
acknowledging the most mundane things,
for who knew where I was to next,
I snuck into nightclubs,
and followed couples on their romantic walks,
wondering, did I not deserve the memories of love?
Sometimes strangers crossed paths with the moon,
reflecting black wings of their own in the shadows,
leaving traces of the fallen and so did I,
or at least I thought that I did.
Incidentally, when I crossed paths with the moon,
my wings started flapping,
and shone white under the natural moonlight,
I bolted up in the sky, almost reached the cracks,
and looked down to wonder,
What was I doing all these clueless nights?

Ashaani Taneja is a 15 year old writer. She published her book, ‘Bad Blood Frenemies’ for which she won The Most Promising Author award at the Dehradun Literature Festival. A poem from her collection, ‘Breath’ has been published online in the Indian Periodical.

Essay | Reading Bombay through Arun Kolatkar’s Kala Ghoda poems – Saranya Subramanian

 
Shit city, he thunders;
the lion of Bombay thunders,
Shit city!
 
I shit on you.
You were a group
of seven shitty islands
 
given in dowry
to the Shit King of Ing
to shit on
 
— and now it’s all
one big high-rise shit,
waiting for God
 
to pull the flush.
And it won’t be long
for God is great.

- The Shit Sermon, Kala Ghoda Poems, Arun Kolatkar[1]

I read Arun Kolatkar to read Bombay. Is it right to read a poet, or poetry, as an extension of a place? I don’t know. Maybe not. Or maybe there is no right way to read a poem, or a poet for that matter. Still, I can’t help but see Kolatkar as synonymous with Bombay. Or perhaps synonymous with a Bombay that is musical and hilarious, twisted and hopeless, and very much existent even today. To me, Kala Ghoda Poems is an honest, unique narrative of my city that was otherwise unapparent to me until I read Kolatkar. For the first time I stopped to notice parts of Bombay that were right under my nose all along, but perhaps not visually appealing or relevant enough to be worthy of my seemingly precious time.

I started my initiative, The Kolatkar Crawl, as a continuation of my research. My graduate thesis was a digital humanities project, where I used the software tools of spatial mapping to chart Kolatkar’s stellar collection published in 2004, the Kala Ghoda Poems, onto a map of Bombay and the world. Pinning poems, characters and events onto a visual map was a fantastic, insightful experience that explicated on the truths and fantasies of urban development. But the real fun, and the real struggle, was in finding these locations firsthand in my own city. My primary research involved walking around Bombay to follow the animals, people and piles of rubbish in Kala Ghoda Poems. To see Kolatkar’s Bombay is to see a city stitched together by a poet (and the Pi-dog). Ordinary things are turned upside down and magnified. Multiple lives jostle against each other and are made apparent in lyrical verses that subtly expose the collateral damage of a city plagued with development. The Bombay that Kolatkar writes, while being a global city, does not project the illusion of globalization as one that only involves skyscrapers and successful narratives of becoming rich and famous worldwide. The very real consequences of uneven development—pockets of rich and poor, past and present, grand buildings and piles of rubbish coexisting—distort this illusion. Kala Ghoda Poems teaches me to shift focus of my own city to the sidelined people on the streets and the scraps of dirt that are peppered on the ground. Kolatkar writes them down in poems that are delicate and light, never taking themselves too seriously. The poems are just as whimsical and musical as they are jarring and expository.

The first thing that strikes me about Kala Ghoda Poems is its characters. These are animals, objects and people who are almost spillovers of development, pushed out from social institutions and buildings onto the streets. For the first time, I viewed them as stuck, stranded, marooned in Bombay, far from home. The people from Kala Ghoda Poems are best described in “Breakfast Time at Kala Ghoda”: “the little vamp, the grandma, the blind man/the ogress,/ the rat-poison man,/ the pinwheel boy,/ the hipster queen of the crossroads,/ the Demosthenes of Kala Ghoda,/ the pregnant queen of tarts,/ the laughing Buddha,/ the knucklebones champ.[2]” As opposed to the bankers and lawyers who remain on the periphery of these poems, here are street dwellers, prostitutes, drunks and the homeless, made out to be almost mythical, magical creatures, asserting themselves over unmarked patches of land. The Barefoot Queen of the Crossroads has dominion “over two traffic islands/ and three pavements,[3]” the so-called Man of the Year stands proudly at a street corner, the girl who looks like “a stick of cinnamon” sits upon a concrete block “as if it were a throne[4]”. I see how the whole city, including my home, is literally either in their hands or on their body. Pi-dog’s body patches look like a “seventeenth century map of the city,”[5] the Barefoot Queen of the Crossroads wears Bombay on her sari: each flap representing Dadar, Parel, Lalbaug, Byculla, Bori Bunder, Flora Fountain and Kala Ghoda.

Kolatkar’s characters make me question my own identity and experience of Bombay. Suddenly the colonial Kala Ghoda statue, that lent its name to the entire South Bombay locale, is replaced by the Pi-dog who commands his city from there. The Pi-dog chooses his lineage by tracing his descent from his mother’s side—a bitch who was brought from England to Bombay. He consequently opts for a narrative twice subversive: of colonial and matrilineal descent, challenging common postcolonial attempts of reclaiming the Indian identity. My position in an increasingly commodified world is questioned when I find myself wearing or carrying objects that are presented in Kala Ghoda Poems as rubbish littered on the road, in ubiquitous piles and pieces of junk that have been ridden of all their utilitarian properties. Yesterday’s commodities become today’s garbage, and Kolatkar urges me to stop and look at them—really look at them—as he individually picks out a red plastic hair comb, scraps of paper, an old bicycle tyre, a three-legged chair, castoff condoms, prawn shells, dead flowers and clay. As I walk around the beautiful, artistic hub of Kala Ghoda, home to a UNESCO world heritage site, it’s turned into a garbage dump. But rubbish and urban expansion are inextricable from each other, and I am reminded that much of Bombay is built on landfills converted into sparkling suburbs. As Kolatkar says, “the more you clean Bombay,/ the more Bombay there is to clean[6].”

The first time I followed the Kala Ghoda Poems trail, I expected to be taken on a linear journey from morning till night through 28 poems, but that was far from reality. In between “Pi-dog” and “Traffic Lights,” Kala Ghoda Poems goes back and forth in time and space, tugging me all around the world even, making a chronological trail an impossible feat. Other time zones and time periods are very much alive and breathe life into Bombay’s present reality. David Sassoon’s spectral presence looms over Bombay, indicating how the 19th century Baghdadi Jew painfully watches over his “cement-eating, blood-guzzling city[7]” of which I am a part. A queen from 13th century Granada is embodied in the Barefoot Queen of the Crossroads, whose demeanour could very well make the pavement she dominates equivalent to a courtyard in Alhambra. Time is also a paralysed, stagnating thing in Bombay. Kala Ghoda Poems stops time and stretches moments of a box of idlis collectively sighing, a pinwheel rolling down the street, or a woman delousing her lover’s hair. I am made to stop and smell the idlis. In “Knucklebones” a women selling drugs controls time in the modern world: “Your sari wears a grin/ where your buttocks have sucked it in./ Which sets us all back by a good ten seconds./ It isn’t just your sari;/ it’s time itself that feels the pinch./ The clock outside the Lund & Blockley shop/ that shows the different times/ in all the big cities around the globe/ stumbles and loses ten seconds worldwide./ Flights are delayed./ Trains run behind schedule[8].” Suddenly, I see the fate of all my travel and business plans in the hands, rather buttocks, of this street peddler. The absurdity of development depending on the economically weak sections of society is made obvious in hilarious verse.

Some locations are often impossible to find or measure in exactitude while on The Kolatkar Crawl, locations that are beneath mahogany and banyan trees (trees themselves are a rarity in Bombay these days), at a street corner and a pavement teashop. Others are impossible to reach, such as the Danube River, the Black Sea, Hindu Kush Mountains or Heaven, Sheoul, all of which are tied to Bombay through drug trading, migration and even violent processes of war and colonization. Buildings that have lent their names to roads and areas become mobile caricatures stripped of all magnanimity and glory. Jehangir Art Gallery is “sleeping with its mouth open, as usual,[9]” St Andrew’s church “tiptoes back to its place,/ shoes in hand,/ like a husband after late-night revels,[10]” and the drunk in “The Shit Sermon” yells curses that circle over “the stock exchange,/ the High Court and Mantralaya”[11]. These buildings of art, religion, finance and law, are made comical and fluid, cursed and laughed upon.

Walking through Bombay and reading Kala Ghoda Poems recreates a city that is constantly shifting and dancing around, full of noises and colours, all the while exposing those lives that are pushed out of an expanding concrete jungle, hidden under bright lights and tall towers—the triumphs of development. Kolatkar weaves a Bombay that has no spatial and temporal coherence. I walk in zig-zags and stop midway to search for the smallest of creatures: crows, dogs, homeless snails, injured rats, black cats. Bombay, I realise as each poem pulls me in all directions, cannot only be drawn on the ground. It is a collection of fragments from land, air and sea; it is a disjointed, multidimensional city. Kala Ghoda Poems is an evocative, visceral read. The collection heightens all senses, making me smell and taste and hear all sorts of things as I even visualise Bombay through a charas pill’s journey and traffic lights. It’s a city full to the brim with filth and life pouring out from all cracks and corners.

Is there a right way to read poetry? I don’t have the answer, but I believe that experiencing poetry physically allows me to see things that I have never noticed before. Right now, under lockdown, the characters from Kala Ghoda Poems are important voices of those generally treated as dispensable—migrant workers, unemployed labourers, hungry, homeless strays—victims of a glaringly uneven development. Living on the streets, outside of Bombay’s high rises and social institutions is detrimental, today more than ever. I started The Kolatkar Crawl as an initiative to take people on walkthroughs of Kala Ghoda Poems, but the entire pandemic, lockdown and migrant labour crisis has fuelled the collection with a renewed urgency.

The Kolatkar Crawl is momentarily paused due to lockdown, but the virtual world still allows us to share our thoughts on Bombay and poetry. I conducted a conversation with researcher Laetitia Zecchini and poet Arundhathi Subramniam titled “Reading Kolatkar Under Lockdown” on 6 June 2020, which explored all three of our own entry-points into Kolatkar’s work. Bringing together the perspectives of a poet, an academic and a self-entitled flâneur (myself), was an enjoyable, enlightening experience. Arundhathi spoke about how she is drawn to Kolatkar’s incisive usage of unsentimental, unflinching image and tone and how there is reverence in his seemingly irreverent poems. Laeitita Zecchini seconded this, and added how she is fascinated by how Kolatkar never, never imposes his voice onto the characters in his poems. He gives them time to surface, and in doing so immortalises a city that hasn’t yet been ‘cleansed’ and sanitised.

Reading Kala Ghoda Poems becomes an act of reading Bombay. Now, I surrender fully to the delegations of crows, walls of cafes, watermelon carts, the legless hunchback and jerrycan of kerosene, delinquents in jail, lepers and potato peelers, street dwellers ruling over pavements and playing cards under banyan trees. I learn from them how my city has a shared geographic history with a larger subcontinent and I see the multiplicity of lives and stories that coexist with my own. I learn that my city cannot be tied down to a singular language, identity or history. This is the Bombay that Kala Ghoda Poems encourages me to experience. This is the poet’s city.

WORKS CITED:
Kolaṭakar Aruṇ, and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. Arun Kolatkar: Collected Poems in English. Tarset: Bloodaxe, 2010.

BIO: Saranya Subramanian is a writer and theatre practitioner based in Bombay. Under her initiative, The Kolatkar Crawl, she takes people on walkthroughs+readings of Arun Kolatkar’s Kala Ghoda Poems, bringing the poet’s city to life, verse by verse and step by step. And she writes because, well, it’s all that she can really do.

Follow @thekolatkarcrawl on Instagram and Twitter for updates!

[1]Kolatkar, Arun. “The Shit Sermon.” Arun Kolatkar: Collected Poems in English, edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Bloodaxe Books, 2010, pp. 146–149.

[2]  Kolatkar, Arun. “Breakfast Time at Kala Ghoda.” Arun Kolatkar: Collected Poems in English, edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Bloodaxe Books, 2010, pp. 120-144.

[3] Ibid., 124.

[4] Ibid., 108.

[5] Ibid., 84.

[6] Ibid., 87.

[7]   Kolatkar, Arun. “David Sassoon.” Arun Kolatkar: Collected Poems in English, edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Bloodaxe Books, 2010, pp. 173.

[8] Ibid., 116.

[9] Ibid., 84.

[10] Ibid., 80.

[11] Ibid., 149.