Plato argues that human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge. And before staging Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Śākuntalā, the director challenges his actress-lover: “As though in a painting, the entire audience has had their emotion colored through your melody. So now—what shall we perform to sustain the mood?” In this class, we will explore how creating vivid emotional worlds between characters and within storylines can build suspense, sustain drama, and lure the reader deeper in. If you’re currently working on a short story, novel, screenplay, theatrical play, lyrical essay, memoir, or narrative poem which has a unique emotional landscape, come stop by the Ruth Stone House for our next online creative writing workshop led by Rita Banerjee on October 2 and October 10, 2021. Students will read Rita Banerjee’s article, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory” from Poets & Writers Magazine, do in-class writing exercises centering rasa, emotion, and suspense, and share out their work with classmates. Register at the Ruth Stone House. Workshop Fee: $150 for 2 Sessions.
Join the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts as they celebrate the end of the 2020-21 school year with a final faculty reading.
The reading will be held on Zoom from 5:30–7:30 pm ET on Friday, May 14, as part of the Alumnx Weekend and Graduation festivities. Faculty readers include Rita Banerjee, Ariel Francisco, Rob Spillman, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Miciah Bay Gault, Erin Stalcup, Frances Cannon, James Scott, Tim Horvath, and Sean Prentiss.
This event is free and open to the public, so join us to hear from our beloved writers and poets!
On Friday, September 13, from 7 pm – 10 pm, join Finishing Line Press at the Poets House (10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282 ) for a reading by FLP poets James Ragan, Rita Banerjee, Deborah Kahan Kolb, Stephanie Laterza, Danelle Lejeune, Mark A. Murphy, Dawn Marar, Katherine E. Schneider and others.
This event is free and open to the public. The reading by Finishing Line Poets will be followed by an Open Mic portion. Snacks and drinks will be provided. This event is made possible through Poets House’s Literary Partners program. Poets House is an ADA accessible facility. For more information, please visit Poets House or Finishing Line Press’s events page.
VCFA Alumni Reading & Reception
March 27 * 6:00-8:00pm
Enso Winery, 1416 SE Stark Street, Portland, OR
Author Signing: Echo in Four Beats
Friday, March 29 * 11 am – 12 noon
Cambridge Writers’ Workshop
AWP Bookfair * Table T13106
March 29* 6:00-8:00pm
Pettigrove Room, Hotel Lucia, 400 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205
410 SW Broadway
Cambridge Writers’ Workshop
AWP Bookfair * Table T13106
Thursday, March 28, 2-4 pm
Friday, March 29, 11 am-12 pm
Saturday, March 30, 3-4 pm
Vermont College of Fine Arts
AWP Bookfair * Booths 5021 & 5023
Thursday, March 28, 10 am – 12 pm
Friday, March 29, 10 am – 11 am
Saturday, March 30, 11 am – 12 pm
Rita Banerjee’s jazz poems “Georgia Brown” and “The Suicide Rag,” which were featured on Painted Bridge Quarterly‘s podcast, “Episode 27: Suicides and Skeleton Jazz,” are now available in print and on the web in in the Summer 2018 (Issue 97) of Painted Bride Quarterly. On the poems, the editors of Painted Bride Quarterly write:
Rita Banerjee is the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and is currently working on a futuristic dystopian novel about Mel Cassin, a half-Tamil, half-Jewish girl stuck in the middle of a familial crisis and an epic political meltdown, and a collection of essays on race, sex, politics, and everything cool. A jet-setter at heart, she spends her time between Munich, Germany and the United States.
This week’s discussion both took us back and made sure that none of us would see the world the same way again. With images of breakdancing, gospel choir,and the not-so-innocent Georgia Brown, we were in it. Whether we’re distinguishing jazz from jazz or figuring out what a clapper is, this episode is filled with risky moves.
You can read Rita Banerjee’s poems “Georgia Brown” and “The Suicide Rag” here. Both poems are featured in Rita Banerjee’s debut poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (Finishing Line Press, March 2018), which was named one of Book Riot’s “Must-Read Poetic Voices of Split This Rock 2018”, was nominated for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and was selected by Finishing Line Press as their 2018 nominee for the National Book Award in Poetry. Echo in Four Beats can be ordered via Finishing Line Press, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the Academy of American Poets has featured a series of poems by modern and contemporary Asian American poets and writers. Rita Banerjee’s poem “Sleep,” which was the Academy of American Poets’s Poem-a-Day on November 30, 2017, is one of the featured audio poems this month on Poets.org. Check out “Sleep” (from Rita Banerjee’s collection Echo in Four Beats) and all the featured Asian American writers on the Academy of American Poets.org!
“Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”
~ Theseus, Act V, Scene 1
On Friday June 23 at 6 pm, Rita Banerjee will be teaching a creative writing workshop for Munich Creative Writers inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For more information on upcoming Munich Creative Writers workshops and meetings, please visit their website here.
A Lecture by Dr. Rita Banerjee
Department of African, Middle Eastern, South and South Asian Literatures and Languages
Thursday, April 20 * 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Rutgers University, Academic Building 6010
15 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
The creation hymn from the Rig Veda begins with a series of provocative statements and spiky questions: “There was neither non-existence or existence then…The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe…Whence this creation has arisen…the one who looked down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows – or perhaps, he does not know.” In explaining the origins of the Indus Valley civilization and the universe at large, the Rig Veda’s playful, interrogative style places the burden of understanding and interpretation on the reader. The creative power of the poet, non-dualism, uncertainty, and even atheism are hinted at in these opening lines of the Rig Veda. But what makes this seminal and foundational text of Indic philosophy and oral literature especially interesting is the emphasis it places on the critical distance and interpretive lens of the reader. From the Rig Veda onwards, this gesture towards hermeneutics repeats in canons of South Asian literary theory and literature from texts such as Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra and Kālidāsa’s The Recognition of Śakuntalā in the classical period, to the manifestos and discussions of literary modernisms emerging in Bengali, Hindi, and Indian English little magazines and literatures in the 20th century. In this talk, we will examine why Indic literature continues to place the reader in the role of a critic, translator, debater, or connoisseur. What does placing the reader in the role of the critic convey about South Asian literary theory and intellectual culture? Does the emphasis on the reader as critic reveal the deconstructive, pluralistic, or matrix-like nature of South Asian literary theory? Come join us for a rousing debate and discussion on the structural gestures and intellectual goals of South Asian literary theory.
Many thanks to Mass Poetry for featuring Rita Banerjee’s poem, “Chicago Ode,” in their Poem of the Moment section. Mass Poetry supports poets and poetry in Massachusetts. Mass Poetry helps ro broaden the audience of poetry readers, brings poetry to readers of all ages and transform people’s lives through inspiring verse. A copy of the poem is included below, and you can read the full poem on Mass Poetry here.
You came quiet on
cat feet with
for minor names
aortal and stung—
off grids and arcs
bending like yellow,
red and unglued blue
You moved like
a river under
Boul Mich elevated
kept sails and lovers
lit on harbor.
like bodies lit
on grass, you stood
unlike concrete, too
contained in no
form, no limb
that would move
your eyes grew
catlike, calling to
locking lakes in land,
you asked time to
sneeze, hiccup, to not
speak at all—
asked to linger no
longer or to
stay longer like
cracklers at night,
the firework’s parched
breath & Ferris wheel
lights that held
like ships & whistles
* Read the poem on Mass Poetry here.
Join the show at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Literary Vaudeville! The evening will feature tantalizing performances from writers Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Megan Fernandes, Claire Ince, Emily Smith, Christina M. Rau, and Frederick-Douglass Knowles II. Enjoy the dexterity of our word-artists and their poetic & prose literary feats!
Rita Banerjee is the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and the new Executive Director of Kundiman. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali (Spider Road Press), is forthcoming in October 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel and book of lyric essays.
Diana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She is author of the poetry collections Parallel Sparrows (honorable mention for Best Poetry Book in the 2014 Paris Book Festival) and Roses in the Snow (first runner-up Best Poetry Book at the 2009 DIY Book Festival). She also records her poetry with musicians and has collaborated with several composers. Her poetry-music collaboration with Flux Without Pause led to their collaboration “Space Mothlight” hitting #16 on the Creative Commons Hot 100 list in 2015, and can be found in the curated WFMU Free Music Archive. Szokolyai’s work has been recently reviewed by The London Grip and published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Fiction Project, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, The Dudley Review and Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as anthologized in The Highwaymen NYC #2, Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Always Wondering and Teachers as Writers. Szokolyai earned her Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard University and her M.A. in French Literature from the University of Connecticut, while she completed coursework at the Sorbonne and research on Romani writers in Paris. She is currently at work on three books and recording an album of poetry & music.
Emily Smith is a Managing Editing and Communications Intern for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She is a Contributing Blogger for Ploughshares and holds a B.F.A. in Creative Writing from New Hampshire Institute of Art. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Brooklyn Magazine, Refinery 29, Bustle, Brevity, Luna Luna and others.
Megan Fernandes is an Assistant Professor of English at Lafayette College and teaches courses on poetry, feminist theory, and science and technology studies. She holds a PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an MFA in poetry from Boston University. She is the author of The Kingdom and After (Tightrope Books 2015), the poetry editor of the anthology Strangers in Paris (Tightrope Books 2011), and the author of two poetry chapbooks: Organ Speech (Corrupt Press) and Some Citrus Makes Me Blue (Dancing Girl Press). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in the Boston Review, Rattle, The Adroit Journal, Pank Magazine, The Walrus Magazine, Postmodern Culture, Guernica, Memorious, the Academy of American Poets, Redivider, the California Journal of Poetics, among others.
Claire Ince is the writer-producer of the movie musical Bazodee. An MFA graduate of New York University’s Dramatic Writing Program, Tisch School of the Arts, Claire previously produced the reality adventure show Run’bout for AT&T/Cingular Wireless Caribbean and the children’s TV pilot The Baobab Tree (a selection of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.) Claire won best screenplay for Bazodee (formerly known as Scandalous!) at the Bahamas International Film Festival’s Film Residency Program in 2008. She is also an alumna of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring 2015 in Newport, RI Writing Retreat.
Christina M. Rau is the author of the poetry collection Liberating The Astronauts (forthcoming, 2017), and the poetry chapbooks WakeBreatheMove (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and For The Girls, I (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). Founder of the Long Island reading circuit Poets In Nassau, her poetry has appeared on gallery walls in The Ekphrastic Poster Show, on car magnets for The Living Poetry Project, most recently in the journals Flapperhouse and Golden Walkman Magazine. She edits The Nassau Review at Nassau Community College where she teaches English full time. In her non-writing life, she practices yoga occasionally and line dances on other occasions. She is also an alumna of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring 2015 in Newport, RI Writing Retreat.
Frederick-Douglass Knowles II (Yesod) is a Poet-Educator-Activist involved in Community Education and the Performing Arts. He has competed on three National Poetry Slam Teams (2x Connecticut and Brooklyn, NY). His works have featured in the Martin Luther King Jr. Anthology by Yale University Press, East Haddam Stage Company of Connecticut, The 13th Annual Acacia Group Conference at California State University, Folio– a Southern Connecticut State University literary magazine, Lefoko—a Botswana (Southern Africa) Hip-Hop magazine and Fingernails Across the Chalkboard: AIDS Anthology by Third World Press. Frederick-Douglass is currently an English Professor at Three Rivers Community College where he infuses English Composition with social injustices, such as AIDS, Poverty and War. His debut collection of autobiographical poetry, Black Rose City, was currently released by Author House.