April 14: Ruth Stone Foundation Reading feat. Rita Banerjee, C.A. Conrad, and Seth Wade – The Wishbone Collective, VT – 6:00-9:00 pm


Ruth Stone Foundation Reading feat.
Rita Banerjee, Seth Wade, & C.A. Conrad
Wishbone Collective * 6:00-9:00 pm
36 Main Street, Winooski, VT 05404

The Wishbone Collective (Winooski, VT) is happy to announce a new monthly reading series in collaboration with the Ruth Stone Foundation.   Join us for our second reading on Sunday, April 14th. Doors at 6:00, reading at 6:30.  This month will feature poets Seth Wade, CA Conrad, and Rita Banerjee.

Seth Wade studies English and philosophy at the University of Vermont. He’s been published in McSweeney’s and The Gateway Review, and is currently editor in chief of The Gist.

CA Conrad is a 2019 Creative Capital Fellow, and the author of nine books of poetry and essays. While Standing in Line for Death (Wave Books), received the 2018 Lambda Award. A recipient of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, they also received The Believer Magazine Book Award and The Gil Ott Book Award. Their work has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Polish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Danish and German. They teach regularly at Columbia University in NYC, and Sandberg Art Institute in Amsterdam.

Rita Banerjee is the Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. As a writer, she is the co-editor of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press, May 2018), and the author of the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (Finishing Line Press, March 2018).

The Ruth Stone Foundation (RSF) is a non-profit organization that not only looks to preserve and heighten Ruth Stone’s legacy, but also to provide poets and artists with time, space, and opportunities to create new work and share it with a wider audience.

The RSF Reading Series is a free event featuring multiple poets, both emerging and established. As often as possible RSF will pair local authors with visiting writers and invite a student of the RSF Poetry Workshop to participate. Hosted by poets Bianca Stone and Ben Pease, these readings will offer a chance for out of state writers to engage with the local community, highlight exciting local voices, and give emerging writers a chance to share their work publicly.

 

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Rita Banerjee at AWP 2019 (Portland, OR)

Rita Banerjee, writer and Director of the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, will be participating in the following AWP events:

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

VCFA Reception
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 “Echo in Four Beats” selected for the Ruth Stone Foundation Book Club

 

Rita Banerjee’s poetry debut Echo in Four Beats (FLP, 2018) has been selected for the Ruth Stone Foundation Book Club.  The Ruth Stone Foundation will feature Echo in Four Beats on a podcast this Spring along with an interview of Banerjee this Spring.

Established in 2013, The Foundation serves to fulfill Ruth Stone’s wish that her physical and literary estate would be used for the furthering of poetry and the creative arts. It was created not only to nurture contemporary poetry and art in its many forms, but also to cultivate and celebrate the works and legacy of the poet herself.  The Ruth Stone Foundation seeks to provide poets and artists time, space,  and opportunities to create new work and share it with a wider audience.  This is accomplished through The Foundation’s small-press publishing house, the Next Galaxy Poetry Initiative (a writers’ retreat and haven, located in Ruth Stone’s house in Goshen, Vermont) and other programming in New York City. Compelled by Ruth Stone’s life and work, The Foundation seeks to support under-represented artists and stand for a literary community outside the usual institutions.  The Ruth Stone Foundation connects the writers and artists it supports with the community at large, especially to empower women and foster leadership through creativity, writing, and publishing.

Rita Banerjee’s poetry collection, Echo in Four Beats, has also been nominated for the2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize at the Academy of American Poets, has been selected by Finishing Line Press as their 2018 Nominee for the National Book Award in Poetry, has been nominated for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and was recently named one of Book Riot’s “Must-Read Poetic Voices of Split This Rock 2018.”

Combining elements, rhythms, and personas from American jazz, blues, and ragtime, poet Rita Banerjee presents a modern-day spin on the love story of Echo and Narcissus in her debut full-length poetry collection, Echo in Four Beats.  But in this story, told in four parts, Echo is more than just a fragment, she is a Sapphic voice that speaks, foretells, forestalls, and repeats.

Rita Banerjee’s Echo in Four Beats (March 9, 2018) is available for order on the Finishing Line Press website as well as at Barnes & Noble and internationally on Amazon.com.

Rita Banerjee’s Hindi / English poem “One Night” (एक रात में) feat. on Soundcloud

Rita Banerjee’s Hindi poem, “एक रात में” (“Ek Rāt Meṃ,” “One Night”) is now available for streaming through Tahoma Literary Review‘s Soundcloud.  You can listen to the original Hindi and English translation of the poem here.  A copy of the Hindi poem follows below:

एक रात में

मैंने एक रात बािरश के हाज़ार नाच सुने
चूड़ी की तरह आकाश टुकड़े टुकड़े हो गया
गली के आइने में पृथ्वी उलटी लगी
पानी के िहलने से सब दुिनया बदलने लगी
और मेरी तस्वीर भी दूसरी हो गई
चारों तरफ़ आकाश के नाच में
असली दुिनया नक़ली लगने लगी
और पानी के एक एक टुकड़े में
चाँद हँस रहा था।

Banerjee’s Hindi / English poem “One Night” (एक रात में) is featured in Issue 13 (December 2018) of the Tahoma Literary Review.  You can order a copy of Issue 13 of The Tahoma Literary in print or on Kindle.

Rita Banerjee’s Hindi / English poem “One Night” (एक रात में) feat. in the Tahoma Literary Review

Rita Banerjee’s Hindi poem, “एक रात में” (“Ek Rāt Meṃ,” “One Night”) is featured in Issue 13 (December 2018) of the Tahoma Literary Review.  You can order a copy of Issue 13 of The Tahoma Literary in print or on Kindle.  On the poem, Banerjee writes:

“When I was a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley and working on my dissertation on South Asian literary modernisms, I took a wonderful Hindi Literature and Language course with the unforgettable Usha Jain.  In class, we read satirical and socially and psychologically subversive works by Premchand and Sa’ādat Hasan Manto in their original Hindi and in Hindi translation from Urdu. During class, Usha Jain encouraged us to write poems, essays, and stories, in Hindi, too. This poem, “One Night,” is meant to be a nod towards the dark humor Premchand and Manto espoused, especially during troubled times.”

You can read more about the featured poem here.

The Quarterly Conversation: Pauline Jansen van Rensburg reviews Echo in Four Beats

South African novelist and essayist Pauline Jansen van Rensburg reviews Rita Banerjee’s debut poetry collection Echo in Four Beats for current issue of The Quarterly Conversation.  In her review, she writes:

“Rita Banerjee´s debut poetry collection, Echo in Four Beats, published by Finishing Line Press, is a modern feminist re-interpretation of the myth of Echo and Narcissus from Ovid´s Metamorphoses. Echo in Four Beats performs at the intersection between classical Greek and Indic myth, gender politics, political oppression, Vedic and Buddhist philosophy, and deeply personal narratives through verse redolent with tonal originality. The collection is not exclusively centered on the rampant narcissism of our times, nor is it just an appeal to reclaim an authentic female narrative free of patriarchal heteronormative echoes—its contemporary topical significance also lies in its rally against the discourse of capitalistic ideologies and the damaging heritage of colonisation. The collection encourages the reader to ponder the transformative and transcendental power of art and spiritual consciousness.

The title Echo in Four Beats alludes to the Greek myth and references the four distinct waves of feminism that have culminated into a global crescendo today. Hence, the fourth beat may be perceived as analogous with the fourth wave of feminism, which promises to become more intersectional, more open to debate, and more transformative than precedent waves. The cover is suggestive of The Women´s March in Washington, DC. It depicts a crowd of women cupping their hands to their mouths to enunciate and receive wisdom back. The women move and surround a reclining Satyr, the infamous Barberini Faun, from the entourage of the God of Ecstasy, Dionysus, who is narcissistically confident in his lascivious abandon and powerful aesthetic beauty. He is seemingly oblivious to the throngs of what could be revolutionary women around him, uniting to take back the mic and reclaim their own voices.

The fundamental Vedic and Buddhist religious concept of Saṃsāra, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘wandering,’ and denoting a spiritual journey towards enlightenment through the cycle of life-death-rebirth, acts as a blueprint for the structure of the collection. It transposes onto the first three beats, which correspond with: Brahma and creation, Vishnu as the preserver or sustenance in the second beat, and Shiva, the destroyer and destructive transformation in the third beat. The fourth beat explores what liberation from this cycle of creation, sustenance and destruction might look like and the poem ‘Beyond Saṃsāra’ ironically suggests the possibility of women regaining their freedom from past destructive cycles.”

Read the full review of Echo in Four Beats on The Quarterly Conversation here.

Kendrick Loo reviews Rita Banerjee’s “Echo in Four Beats” for Singapore Unbound

In Singapore Unbound, author and critic Kendrick Loo of the University of St. Andrews reviews Rita Banerjee’s debut poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (Finishing Line Press, March 2018).  He writes:

When Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar published The Madwoman in the Attic in 1979, their focus on how women writers were limited by patriarchal stereotypes of female embodiment represented a landmark recognition that writing is hardly apolitical or objective. Decades on, we understand that canonical writing was formed by predominantly male ecosystem of publishers, translators, and critics. However, tension remains in how to deal with the problematic legacy that our literary forebears have left us—how do we acknowledge ‘canonical texts’ as meriting analysis, while simultaneously remembering and honoring those rendered invisible and pushed to the margins by the historical prejudice. Out of this quagmire emerges Rita Banerjee’s debut collection, Echo in Four Beats. A reflective book that questions the status of canonical writing, its multilingual intertextuality belies a poetic voice that dances between criticism and innovation of poetry to restore female voices to literary canon. Concerned with language as political signifier—which is to say how language connotes, inscribes, and affects how one is perceived—it retains a feminist approach to historical texts.

Subdivided into four sections, Echo in Four Beats is, as suggested by its title, concerned about the Ovidian myth of Echo and Narcissus. In the classic tale, Echo’s misfortune begins when she tricks the goddess Juno so that her sisters—who had slept with Juno’s husband, Jupiter—can escape. Cursed by Juno to repeat only the words of others as punishment, Echo later fails to approach Narcissus, a beautiful man Echo has admired from a distance but never spoken with. Terrified, Narcissus runs away from Echo while Echo herself wastes away from heartbreak, leaving only her voice behind. In Banerjee’s collection, this myth is visited in a poetic sequence titled “Creation Hymn,” “Sustenance Hymn,” and “Destruction Hymn,” where a process of erasure is enacted upon a translation of Ovid’s The Metamorphoses to create a personal version of events. This technical restriction enables Banerjee to honor and resist simultaneously the restraints that Juno imposed, while creating a lyrical and haunting voice that speaks for both poet and muse. The reader is rewarded with thematically resonant poetry that can be easily attributed to the original myth such as the following fragment from “Sustenance Hymn I”:

Her voice, her bones,
shapes of stone heard
by everyone: sound lives in her

Based on the titles alone, one might say that the process of creation and destruction is a kernel around which the collection is formed. However, the hymnal sequence is compelling for other reasons, namely that of transformation. Consider how the detachment of the sequence vanishes when one reaches the segment titled “Destruction Hymn I,” where the introduction of a first-person perspective creates a personal voice, breathing life into the poem. Its immediacy and intimacy signals that a female voice has been discovered, delivering retrospective justice to Echo who was consigned by Ovid to a mute end, embedded within and serving Narcissus’ larger narrative. Banerjee’s I retrospectively fulfills the promise raised by the very first section of the sequence, “Creation Hymn I”:

she, who cannot be
silent, might learn how
to speak first herself

The desire to amend history, therefore, is an impulse that the poetic voice of Echo in Four Beats keeps central to its work, emerging from the feminist recognition of the marginalization of women in literary works. However, Banerjee never loses control of her grasp for reinvention: in the opening poem of the book, “The moon had jackknifed,” Ovid’s myth is given a new ending. Banerjee describes via the use of past tense a man who dissolves into “a lovely blank” at the touch of the moon. Such evocative imagery strengthens the poetry, as it does in the lines “the orbs splitting yellow/ spoke of oblivion,/ his eyes glimmered,/ the moon understood.” By suggesting the contours of the original myth, Banerjee positions her collection as an alternative chain of events, picking up where Ovid leaves off when the male figure fades away.

Nonetheless, Banerjee does not limit herself to interacting with creative works solely inspired by the myth of Narcissus and Echo. Echo in Four Beats is redolent with rich allusions to a wide range of writers and artists. The poem “Please Listen and Do Not Return,” for instance, critiques F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck for their female characters, who are conceived as extensions of desire and utility to the narrative’s male protagonists. The title therefore is a blunt warning not to repeat the mistakes of these protagonists, situating the poem as a post-script to the original works. Yet, one might wonder why Banerjee engages in intertextuality and ekphrastic writing. This question is answered in Banerjee’s collection by a poem called “The Figure,” which asserts that despair results from the desire to quantify things that exist beyond our capacity for description. Instead of starting with a question that would premise, and therefore demarcate understanding, the persona of the poem singles out the act of enlightenment:

I only understood by casting you
first in flesh, then in clay,
and finally in frail, sea-water words.
You tendered there—
adrift on the tide

This process of creation in reverse, from flesh to water, generates solace while never revealing what the narrator knows. Only the foreword, with a line by the Japanese literary figure Jun-ichirō Tanizaki (“We find beauty not in the thing itself/ but in the patterns of shadows”), and a line on the repairing of old wounds (“…heal the lines/ between blue and continent”), suggests that the original question is about beauty and meaning that cannot be quantified by categorization and description. This explains why the poem quoted above focuses on the growing transience of the figure’s form, instead of explaining the figure’s gradual dissolution. Only by creating, not explicating, can the speaker grasp an elusive meaning.

The focus on blurring and subverting boundaries is why praise for Echo in Four Beats focuses on the “post-national” nature of the collection. In the second and third sections of the collection, for example, a large number of poems deal with foreign travel, going beyond America to engage with nations such as India or Japan. Some of these poems take a step further into the conceptual realm, when Banerjee translates into English a poem first written in another language by her own hand. These poems—namely “A Water’s Sound” and “One Night”—position Banerjee in the dual role of poet and translator, inviting us to consider how translation and writing are closely intertwined. While the work of the original poet is crucial, the inclusion of both translated and non-translated versions of the same poem makes the argument that lacking translation, we lose not only the basic contents of the poem but also the nuanced explanations of cultural signifiers and references that exist only in the original language. Some slippage is of course inevitable, but Banerjee reminds us that there is still value in attempting to translate.

Read the full review of Echo in Four Beats  on Singapore Unbound here.