Rita Banerjee’s “Chicago Ode” – A Mass Poetry: Poem of the Moment

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.

Chicago Ode

You came quiet on
cat feet with
for minor names

Like architecture,
you remained
aortal and stung—

Colors dropped
off grids and arcs
bending like yellow,
red and unglued blue

You moved like
a river under
Boul Mich elevated

undulated space,
kept sails and lovers
lit on harbor.

like bodies lit
on grass, you stood
unlike bronze

unlike concrete, too
contained in no
form, no limb
that would move

like fever
your eyes grew
catlike, calling to
strange bodies,

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
a cradle
without thread.

* Read the poem on Mass Poetry here.

PEN America Presents: LitCrawl NYC 2016 & CWW’s Literary Vaudeville – October 1


Join the show at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop’s Literary Vaudeville! The evening will feature tantalizing performances from writers Rita BanerjeeDiana Norma SzokolyaiMegan FernandesClaire InceEmily SmithChristina M. Rau, and Frederick-Douglass Knowles II. Enjoy the dexterity of our word-artists and their poetic & prose literary feats!

Featured Readers:

ritabanerjeeRita 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 MagazineThe 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.


diananormaDiana 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.

eb8tc9Emily 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 ArtHer work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Brooklyn Magazine, Refinery 29Bustle, Brevity, Luna Luna and others.



meganfernandes_newbioimage2015Megan 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.

c8yndepvClaire 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.


13924994_1047861051976627_7319760793243653775_nChristina 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.


screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-52-49-amFrederick-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.

Riot Grrrl Magazine features Rita Banerjee’s “Pygmalion & the Slippers” and “Currency”

RiotGrrrlMagazineThe current issue of Riot Grrrl Magazine features two new poems by Rita Banerjee, “Pygmalion & the Slippers” and “Currency.” 

Riot Grrrl Magazine is named after the feminist punk rock movement that began in the early 1990s.  The magazine is meant to show an appreciation for the community of women who raised their voices about gender equality, abuse and other complex issues, especially within the music scene.  The mission of the magazine is to provide entertaining and engaging content, and reflect diverse narratives.  Riot Grrrl Magazine is here to empower diverse audiences. The magazine strives to create a space for women of color, trans women, queer women, and disabled women.

Screening of Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues – May 26, 2015

SitaRita Banerjee will introduce and lead the discussion for Nina Paley’s 2008 film, Sita Sings the Blues, on Tuesday, May 26 from 6-8:30 pm for the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.  The screening will take place in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich).  The screening is part of the course Modernity and the South Asian Imaginaire at LMU.  Anyone interested in Modern South Asian literature, history, or art house film is welcomed to join the screening. “[The Rāmāyaṇa’s] hero is the blue-skinned Rama, avatar of the deity Vishnu, but Ms. Paley is more interested in Sita, his wife, whose devotion becomes both a romantic inspiration and a feminist cautionary tale [in Sita Sings the Blues]. Her adventures are narrated by three shadow puppets who speak in the accents of modern Indian English and who quibble over details and interpretations. Meanwhile, Sita, Rama and other characters from the Rāmāyaṇa are rendered in various styles, including a “Betty Boop Goes Bollywood” look for the musical numbers and an illuminated-manuscript manner for the dramatic scenes. All of this is entwined with the simpler, sadder, more drably drawn chronicle of a woman named Nina, whose longtime boyfriend, Dave, takes a job in India and eventually breaks her heart. This is a stripped-down, modernized variation on what happens to Sita, whose absolute love for Rama is repaid with suspicion, a humiliating trial by fire (to test her purity) and banishment.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times


Screening of Tareque Masud’s The Clay Bird – January 13

the_clay_bird_posterRita Banerjee will introduce and lead the discussion for Tareque Masud’s 2002 film, The Clay Bird (মাটির ময়না), on Tuesday, January 13 from 6-8:30 pm for the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.  The screening will take place in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich).  The screening is part of the course Bengali 3: Intermediate Bengali Language and Literature at LMU.  Anyone interested in Bengali Cinema or South Asian Art House Film is welcomed to join the screening.  In The Clay Bird (Māṭir Maynā), Tareque Masud follows the increasing religious, linguistic, and political tensions leading up to Bangladesh’s War of Liberation from Pakistan in 1971. The film is based on Masud’s childhood experience in a madrasa (Islamic seminary) during the late 1960s in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). This was a very turbulent period in Bangladesh’s history, when as the eastern wing of the greater Islamic state of Pakistan, the country was torn between a strong secular and democratic movement and a pro-Islamic military junta bent on stifling dissent and reform. Although there are oblique references to the historical events of that time, the story Masud tells is an essential human one, told through the eyes of a child. Māṭir Maynā became the first feature film from Bangladesh to be selected for presentation at Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes, it was given the honor of being the opening film of the Directors Fortnight section of the festival, and won the International Critics Prize for best film in that section. However, even as the French and international press were lauding the film for its positive portrayal of Bangladesh and its tolerant traditions, the Bangladesh Censor Board gave their own verdict: the film was banned from public screening because it was deemed too religiously sensitive.

Screening of Satyajit Ray’s The Big City – December 5

mahanagar-poster-1Rita Banerjee will introduce and lead the discussion for Satyajit Ray’s 1963 film, The Big City (মহানগর), on Friday December 5, 2014 from 6-8:30 pm for the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.  The screening will take place in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich).  The screening is part of the course Bengali 3: Intermediate Bengali Language and Literature at LMU.  Anyone interested in Bengali Cinema or South Asian Art House Film is welcomed to join the screening.  “In The Big City (Mahānagar), Ray sets his ironic and humorous eye on the plight of the Bengali middle class, caught amid the changing moralities of city life. The cultural crossfire is internalized in each individual. Focusing in particular on the role of women in this metamorphosis, Ray tells a story that is both minutely particular to Calcutta and universally recognizable. Madhabi Mukherjee gives a beautifully unfolding performance as the timorous housewife who finds her strength when she takes a job—selling knitting machines door to door—in order to help support her family and her husband’s extended family, all of whom resist the move. ‘Few directors can match Ray’s facility for observation or his perceptiveness in registering those tiny moments of conflict when a casual nuance can drop like a bomb.’” —David Wilson, Monthly Film Bulletin.  The screenplay for The Big City (Mahānagar) was written by Satyajit Ray and adapted from a story by Narendra Nath Mitra.

Rita Banerjee’s Mis/Translation poems featured in Quail Bell Magazine

who-lambOver the next few weeks, Quail Bell Magazine will be curating and publishing a series of “Mis/Translations” poems by Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai.  Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai are the founders and directors of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop (CWW). You can read about the CWW’s upcoming Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga, Writing, and Juice Cleanse Retreat in Quail Bell Magazine. In the interview, the CWW shares tips on creating a creative discipline of writing, yoga, and self-care.  Rita also discusses the creative writing invention exercise “Mis/Translations” and how it can help kick-start your writing. Rita’s poem, “Who Lamb” was inspired by a Mis/Translation exercise at the last CWW Verderonne retreat. Norma read her own poem, “hullám/wave” in Hungarian and Rita “Mis/Translated” based entirely on the sound and feel of  words that were foreign to her.  – Jessica Reidy

Rita Banerjee Interviewed in Quail Bell Magazine

CWW-Nov2223-YogaWritingCleanseJessica Reidy, Pushcart Nominee, member of VIDA and Quail Bell Magazine, novelist, and yoga practitioner, interviews Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Elissa Joi Lewis, Alex Carrigan and Megan Tilley for her article Writing through Holiday Stress: Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Pre-Thanksgiving Retreat in Quail Bell Magazine.  In the article, Jessica Reidy discusses how daily yoga, craft of writing seminars, and workshops go hand in hand to spark creativity, encourage relaxation, and produce good writing habits.  Jessica Reidy writes,No matter how cozy your family is, the holidays are stressful. Writers need their time, space, and routine to create and sustain their work, and these necessities fall by the wayside as Thanksgiving marches nearer. Then add the surplus of heavy food, sugar-packed nostalgic treats, and the stress-eating, and you’re feeling like a hot mess and your manuscript is still unfinished. The Cambridge Writer’s Workshop (CWW) knows this all too well, which is why the Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga & Creative Writing Juice Cleanse was born. On Saturday November 22 and Sunday November 23rd, from 2-4 PM, at Ashtanga Yoga Shala in New York City, we will be hosting an afternoon of creative writing classes, yoga classes, and juice for writers who need to decompress and write their hearts out, all with a little raw juice kick.”  (Read the article & interview at Quail Bell Magazine, register for Pre-Thanksgiving Yoga & Creative Writing Cleanse at Cambridge Writers’ Workshop)

Screening of Satyajit Ray’s Company Limited – November 11

companylimited2d3Rita Banerjee will introduce and lead the discussion for Satyajit Ray’s 1971 film, Company Limited (সীমাবদ্ধ), on Tuesday November 11, 2014 from 6-8:30 pm for the Institute for Indology and Tibetology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.  The screening will take place in Seminar Room 427 (Ludwigstr. 31, Munich).  The screening is part of the course Bengali 3: Intermediate Bengali Language and Literature at LMU.  Anyone interested in Bengali Cinema or South Asian Art House Film is welcomed to join the screening.  “In Company Limited, the hero is the amiable, self-satisfied, and ambitious young sales manager of a factory manufacturing electric fans, comfortably married and nicely set up in a smart apartment. The arrival from the country of his beautiful, intelligent, naive young sister-in-law unsettles him at the same moment as a crisis in his department awakens him to his own ability to fight dirty. He gets his directorship and emerges from the experience a good deal wiser and rather less certain of himself… This is one of Ray’s best films. The domestic relationship—the unrealized triangle of the man and the two girls—is revealed more by what is left out than by what is shown. At the same time it is one of Ray’s most richly comic films, with shrewd satire on the American-styled business world of Calcutta.” —David Robinson, London Times