Rita Banerjee’s poems “Georgia Brown” and “The Suicide Rag” feat. on Painted Bride Quarterly’s Print Annual & Podcast, “Episode 27: Suicides & Skeleton Jazz”

georgiabrownPainted Bride Quarterly’s podcast, “Episode 27: Suicides and Skeleton Jazz,” features two new poems from Rita Banerjee.  Here’s is a message from the PBQ Editors:

In the midst of excitedly preparing for AWP 2017, we record this episode in which we discuss two poems by Rita Banerjee, “The Suicide Rag” and “Georgia Brown”

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.

Here is a sample of Rita Banerjee’s poetry:

Georgia Brown

Harlem had yet to be born,
the globe had not been spun,
but we knew how to whistle,
how to call clappers and skirts on cue:
That summer, we first met Georgia,
she was an echo in four beats,
we learned to hum her story.
Mike played her with a licked reed
but she was all brass, sharp
like an abandoned railroad cutting through
wild wood, and when she took stage,
she made those trombone boys whisper,
“Sweet Georgia, Sweet.”

The Suicide Rag

Billy played ragtime
on the church
organ but we

lunch hour kids,
kept time by another
name.  Behind St. Augustine’s

we learned to hit
the pavement, sound
like an anvil

hammers hitting
steel, Billy playing

on the fifth,
we arpeggioed

haloed, froze
on the black
top.  Learning

to cakewalk
This was our

tar-mat babies
doing handsprung

for the girls
standing ’round
with knife-like eyes

That’s all
we needed—
a rolling

beat, a firing squad
and schoolyard

scouring the lot
as we fell
face forward

hands locked
& stiff, the only

that could’ve
come between
us was a kiss.

To here the full discussion of Rita Banerjee’s poetry, listen to the PBQ “Episode 27: Suicides and Skeleton Jazz,podcast here.

Rita Banerjee & Erik Kennedy discuss the New Jersey, Munich, and Christchurch Writing Scenes and Not Being Born in Golf-wear on The Rumpus

In “The Rumpus Interview with Erik Kennedy,” Rita Banerjee and Erik Kennedy discuss their formative years as young writers in New Jersey, their shared history of editing rival literary magazines in New Brunswick, and what it’s like to be American writers writing in English in the emerging and transformative literary scenes of Christchurch and Munich, respectively. Given the conversation’s local and international scope, the interview offers a playful challenge to the NYC vs. MFA model.  An excerpt from the interview follows below:

Banerjee: The New York–New Jersey metropolitan area is often jokingly referred to as “New Amsterdam.” That is, Jersey and the City are seen as having a radical, Calvinist, open-trade, and open-door vibe. A shadow of Dutch egalitarianism falls over New York and New Jersey. Both places are often seen as being very commercial and capital-focused, but the culture of Jersey and the City seems to be constantly renewed and reevaluated by an influx of people, classes, and narratives bumping into one another. It’s where the old and new, the familiar and the foreign, the seventh-generation American and the recent immigrant are forced to meet because people literally have to share the same sidewalk. And the very proximity of bodies being forced to occupy the same space creates an exciting kind of tension and dialogue between voices and values colliding into one another. So what do you think encapsulates a particularly New Jersey aesthetic?

Kennedy: I’m going to attempt the most New Jersey analogy I can devise. Maybe it’s like the Wildwoods, which, for people who don’t know, are a collection of seaside resort towns just north of Cape May, at the southern tip of the state. So there’s Wildwood proper, which is full of energy, youth, piss and vinegar, a magnet for revelers and revulsion; it can be invigorating, but, let’s face it, it’s also disgusting. And there’s Wildwood Crest, which is sort of family-oriented and sleepy and faintly pious (it’s a dry town and there are no rides or horrible game booths); you’re safe there, but are you really alive? And then there’s North Wildwood, which I don’t think anyone knows or cares all that much about; this represents the baseline, the semi-normal starting condition. These are the New Jersey id, superego, and ego that dwell deep within every native of the Garden State and, in their conflicting ways, inevitably energize such a person’s writing. Fair enough?

Reading the full “The Rumpus Interview with Erik Kennedy on The Rumpus here.

Erik Kennedy’s poems have appeared in (or are forthcoming in) places like Ladowich, Ohio Edit, and Prelude in the US, 3:AM Magazine, Oxford Poetry, and Poems in Which in the UK, and Landfall and Sport in New Zealand. He is the Poetry Editor for Queen Mob’s Teahouse.

Rita Banerjee is the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University. 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 Poets & Writers, Hyphen Magazine, Mass Poetry, Painted Bride Quarterly, Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, 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” released in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), in November 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.

AWP Exclusive: Rita Banerjee’s “Writing from the Fringe: Cultivating Writing Communities on Retreats and Abroad” feat. on the WC&C Quarterly


2017 is an exciting year for AWP. We will be holding our 50th AWP Conference & Bookfair this month. Whether you just joined in 2017, or you have been with us for years, thank you for being a part of AWP. We are excited to see what the next fifty years bring.  In this issue, we hear from a Rita Banerjee, who discusses the successes Cambridge Writers’ Workshop has had building community near and far.

–Kenny Lakes, Editor

An excerpt from Rita Banerjee’s essay follows below:

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop (CWW) began as a creative writing community in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Formed by graduate students at Harvard University in 2008, the workshop was meant as a forum for fostering communities of dedicated writers and encouraging creative expression in the literary arts. Since the organization’s inception, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop has been all-inclusive and open to all emerging and established writers, first in the Cambridge and Boston area, and now in Brooklyn, Manhattan, across the United States, and also abroad. Since 2008, the organization has been run by directors Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai.

In 2011, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop expanded to include online creative writing courses and writing retreats. We have participated in the Mass Poetry Festival, the Brooklyn Book Festival, Brooklyn Lit Crawl, Manhattan Lit Crawl, and the AWP Conference. All writers, from amateurs to professionals, who are looking for a serious writing community, are welcome to join the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop.

In 2012, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop hosted its first writing retreat abroad at the Château de Sacy in Picardy, France, a rural country enclave just forty-five minutes outside of Paris. The focus of the workshop was on “Writing and Eco-Living,” and during our retreat in Sacy, our participants enjoyed fresh meals from the organic potager of the Château de Sacy, daily craft of writing seminars and writing workshops, and outings around Picardy. On our retreats, our instructors and participants have hailed from Australia, the US, the UK, France, Germany, and the Philippines. At our Sacy workshop, one of our participants began writing a poetry collection inspired by gaming and also produced a second manuscript about France, WWII, and the memory of her father. Another participant produced a wonderful series of lyric essays and memoirs on fleet week, public swimming pools, and interracial relationships in 1940s Brooklyn…  Read Rita Banerjee’s full essay here.

CWW Presents: Writers in Resistance – An AWP 2017 Reading – Washington D.C. – February 10


The Association of Writers and Writing Programs will be hosting its annual writers conference in Washington DC from February 8-11. As in past years, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop will be present at the conference, with a table at the book fair at Table 361-T. There, we will have information about our 2017 writing retreats, our internships, publications, and a ton of other goodies.

We will also be hosting three author signings at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Table 361-T during the AWP 2017 Conference. The schedule for author signings at our table is as follows:

Tim Horvath: Thursday February 9, 1-2 pm
Diana Norma Szokolyai: Friday February 10, 11 am-12 pm
Rita Banerjee: Saturday February 11, 11 am- 12 pm

As per tradition, we will also be hosting a reading during the conference. The CWW will be hosting a reading at Upshur Street Books on Friday February 10, 2017 from 5pm – 6:45 pm. We have ten fabulous readers ready to present their work, including members of our executive board, faculty from our upcoming writing retreats, and some of our CWW friends. Our reading list includes the following:

ritabanerjee-smRita Banerjee
is Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University.  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 Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Mass Poetry, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric 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 in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), is forthcoming in November 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, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and collection of lyric essays.

beach-jensenJensen Beach is the author of two collections of short fiction, For out of the Heart Proceed, and most recently, Swallowed by the Cold. His stories have appeared A Public Space, the Paris Review, and The New Yorker. He teaches in the BFA Program at Johnson State College, where he is fiction editor at Green Mountains Review. He is also faculty in the MFA Program in Writing & Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. With this family, he lives in Vermont.





Anna-Celestrya Carr is a Metis/Anishinaabe artist, filmmaker, writer, dancer and speaker.  She graduated from both the Vancouver Film School and the National Screen Institute’s New Voices program in Canada. While at NSI she created Dreamcatcher: A short dramatic fantasy of Aboriginal mythology.  In 2012 she created Tik-A-Lee-Kick, an honest and candid telling of a young Aboriginal woman’s perspective on the role of the Little People funded by the Video Pool Aboriginal Media Art Initiative. She has previously attended the University of Manitoba School of Art.  Shehas worked for the National Film Board of Canada and Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery.  Anna-Celestrya focuses her creative energy on her Aboriginal roots and on advancing the rights of Aboriginal women in North America. She has worked with many organizations and institutions to promote human rights and peace. The artwork that she is best known for is The Men’s Banner Project. This work is a combination of interactive performance and installation, about which she also lectures.

Alex Carrigan is originally from Newport News, Virginia and currently resides in Upper Marlboro, MD.  He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in print/online journalism and a minor in world cinema.  He is currently an managing intern for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, as well as a contributing writer for Quail Bell Magazine.  He has written articles for The Commonwealth Times and has had work featured in Luna Luna Magazine. He is also a creative writer and have had work published in Amendment Literary Journal, Life in 10 Minutes, Realms YA Fantasy Literary Magazine, and in Poictesme Literary Journal, of which he was a staff member for four years, two years in which he was deputy editor-in-chief.

tim_horvath_authorphotoTim Horvath is the author of Understories (Bellevue Literary Press), which won the New Hampshire Literary Award, and Circulation (sunnyoutside). His stories have appeared in Conjunctions, Fiction, The Normal School, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. His story “The Understory” won the Raymond Carver Short Story Award, and “The Conversations” earned a Special Mention in the 2014 Pushcart Prize Anthology; he is also a recipient of a Yaddo Fellowship. He teaches in the BFA and low-residency MFA programs at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, where he coordinates the Visiting Writers Series. He is currently at work on The Spinal Descent, a novel about contemporary classical composers, as well as a second short story collection.



Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s first book, THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, is forthcoming from Flatiron Books (Macmillan) in May 2017, as well as from publishers internationally. The book layers a memoir with an investigation into, and recreation of, a 1992 Louisiana murder and death penalty case. For her work on the book, Marzano-Lesnevich received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Award, and has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Other scholarships and fellowships received include those from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Studios at Key West, Vermont Studio Center, and the Alice Hayes Fellowship for Social Justice Writing from the Ragdale Foundation. Her essays appear in The New York Times, Oxford American, Iowa Review, Hotel Amerika, The Rumpus, and the anthologies True Crime and Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays by Women, among many other publications, and were recognized “notable” in Best American Essays 2013, 2015, and 2016. She was educated at Harvard (JD), Emerson College (MFA), and Columbia University (BA) and now teaches at Grub Street, a nonprofit writing center in Boston, and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.


Emily Nemens is coeditor and prose editor of The Southern Review, a literary quarterly published at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Her editorial work has been featured in Writer’s Digest, draft: a journal of process, and on LeanIn.org, and her selections from The Southern Review have recently appeared in Best Mystery Writing 2016 and Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015. She studied art history and studio art at Brown University, and before moving to Louisiana to pursue an MFA in creative writing at LSU, she lived in Brooklyn and worked in editorial capacities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Center for Architecture. Alongside her editorial work, Emily maintains active writing and illustration practices. Her fiction and essays have recently appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and n+1, and she is working on a linked story collection about spring training baseball. As an illustrator she’s collaborated with Harvey Pekar on a Studs Terkel anthology, painted miniature portraits of all the women in Congress, and recently published her first New Yorker cartoon. Follow her at @emilynemens.

img_1590Dena Rash Guzman is a poet born in Las Vegas, Nevada. She moved to Oregon in 2010 where she lived for five years on her family’s remote organic farm in the Sandy River Gorge. While there she launched Unshod Quills, a journal of poetry and art and assisted Jenny Forrester in founding Unchaste Readers, a Portland reading series featuring women and non-binary writers. Her work has appeared in the Rumpus, Ink Node, Luna Luna, the Nervous Breakdown, Gertrude, Literary Orphans, and has been featured on Harriett, the Poetry Foundation blog. Guzman has given readings in cities such as New York, Portland, Shanghai, Seattle and Las Vegas, where her opening night performance launched the Inspire Theater to a packed house. Her work, performances and plays have been nominated for prizes and have won several awards, and her stories and poetry are anthologized worldwide. Dena’s first full length book, the best-selling and critically acclaimed Life Cycle was released by Dog On A Chain Press in 2013. Her second book of poems, Joseph was published in January 2017 and debuted as the number one seller at Powell’s, the world’s largest independent bookseller. She resides in Oregon with her family.

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.

img_20161224_195102_133Leah Umansky is the author of the The Barbarous Century, forthcoming from London’s Eyewear Publishing in 2018. She is also the host and curator of the COUPLET Reading Series in NYC.  Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in such places as, Poetry Magazine, The Journal, Boston Review,  Barrow Street and Magma (UK).  She is #teamkhaleesi.

If you have any questions about the CWW at AWP 2017, be sure to email us at info@cambridgewritersworkshop.org


Book Launch: Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps at the Munich Readery – January 14, 7-8:30 pm

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Book Launch & Reading at the Munich Readery:
Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps
Saturday January 14, 2017 * 7:00 – 8:30 pm
The Munich Readery, Augustenstraße 104, 80798 München

Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps, has just been released on Kindle Books and in Print by Spider Road Press. In Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” two people from different classes, a taxi driver called Tamal-da and his well-to-do passenger meet under unusual circumstances. Stuck together in a flood in the middle of a monsoon hitting Kolkata, Tamal entertains his bored, out-of-town passenger by telling her the story of his life. As he explains how he ended up hustling the mean streets of Kolkata, how he abandoned his rural village, and why he left his family of fishers behind, Tamal spins a tale that is both mundane and fantastic. Built on the tradition of Bengali ghost stories, Tamal’s coming-of-age tale depends as much on the supernatural as on the possibility or impossibility of human connection.

“Two novellas stand especially tall: A Night with Kali, by Rita Banerjee, begins with a taxi ride through Kolkata during a monsoon and soon develops into an entertaining story-in-a-story supernatural tale reminiscent of classic Indian literature.  In 136 Auburn Lane, novelist Donna Hillevokes a mysterious Harlem boarding house in the 1930’s, where a down-and-out woman has one final chance to rescue her pitiful existence.” -Gay Yellen

“’A Night with Kali’” by Rita Banerjee was a pair of ghost stores-within stories-within a story, set in Kolkata and the surrounding villages. The voice was distinct but unobtrusive and created a cozy familiarity with the narrator. The setting was also particularly vivid, but never got bogged down in exposition – rather, well-placed details sprinkled throughout made me feel like I’d lived in the area all my life. This was my favorite of the four, partly because it was the most upbeat. That may sound strange for a ghost story, but it works.” – MJL


RitaBanerjeeRita Banerjee’s received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington.  Her writing also appears in Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, The Rumpus, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Hyphen Magazine, Mass Poetry. AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, Poets for Living Waters, The Monarch Review, The Fiction Project, on 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, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 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, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and collection of lyric essays.

Rita Banerjee’s essay “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory” feat. on Poets & Writers Ampersand Podcast

pw-ampersandpodcastIn the latest episode of the Ampersand Podcast, Poets & Writers editors and cohosts Kevin Larimer and Melissa Faliveno discuss the January/February issue’s section on inspiration, The Darkness and the Light, in which contributors Frank Bures, Melissa Febos, Jay Baron Nicorvo, Nancy M. Williams, Kevin Simmonds, and Rita Banerjee engage with sometimes difficult material and find inspiration in the darkness.  The podcast also includes “Shadows of Words,” the twelfth annual look at debut poets, including Ari Banias, Jana Prikryl, Carolina Ebeid, Solmaz Sharif, Phillip B. Williams, Eleanor Chai, and Justin Boening, as well as Ocean Vuong, Safiya Sinclair, and Tommy Pico, who read poems from their debut collections.  Editor Melissa Faliveno introduces Banerjee’s article on rasa theory with the quote: “Rasa is a shot to the heart, it’s a festering wound, it’s the mind at unrest, and it is nobody’s captive. It can be dangerous.  It’s the moment where you loose yourself and loosen, and find in your body the first stirrings of emotion.”  To hear the full podcast, check out Ampersand here.

Rita Banerjee’s essay, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory,” now available in Poets & Writers Magazine

Rita Banerjee’s essay, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory” now appears in the January/February 2017 Inspiration Issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.  An excerpt from the article follows below:

“Rasa theory centers on taste. Not taste in the sense of sophistication or composure or discernment. Not taste in the sense of good or bad. But taste in its most primal, animalistic, emotive, and provocative form.

Rasa is what happens to you, spectator, reader, part-time lover, when you watch or read a work of art with intensity. Rasa is the flavor of the art experience. It is the feeling produced in the viewer when a work of art is at its most potent and devastating form. Rasa is the immediate, unfettered emotional reaction produced in the spectator when a work of art has left her breathless or yearning for more. Rasa means to savor, to bring a work of art within the body, to let words linger on the tongue. Rasa is a shot to the heart, it’s a festering wound, it’s the mind at unrest, and it is nobody’s captive. It can be dangerous. It can be pleasurable. A visceral form of taste, rasa tends to resist cultivation and containment. Rasa is what happens to you when you find yourself spellbound and alone, and completely enraptured by a work of art for just a moment. It’s where the emotional, narrative, and lyrical landscape of a work washes over, prickles, or consumes you. It’s the moment where you loose yourself and loosen, and find in your body the first stirrings of emotion…”

To read the full article, please check your local bookstores for the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine or visit Poets & Writers here.

Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction – Munich Readery Workshop – January 7 [SOLD OUT]


Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction [SOLD OUT]
Saturday January 7, 2017 * 9:00-12:00

The Munich ReaderyAugustenstraße 104, 80798 München

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 Munich Readery on Saturday January 7 for our next creative writing workshop led by Rita Banerjee.  Rita Banerjee’s article, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory” appears in the January/February 2017 Inspiration Issue of Poets & Writers MagazineTo register, send an email to John by January 2, 2017 at: store@themunichreadery.com. Workshop Fee: €30.  This workshop is SOLD OUT.


New Interview: “Behind the Story: Author and Scholar Rita Banerjee on ‘A Night with Kali'”

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Recently, Jody T. Morse of Spider Road Press, sat down with author Rita Banerjee to discuss the release of her new novella, “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps.  During the interview, Morse asked Banerjee about the inspiration for her novella, the structure and unique characters of her story, and what Banerjee is working on next.  An excerpt of the interview follows below:

Spider Road Press: “A Night with Kali,” is a captivating story. How did the concept for this piece come to you? Or, maybe a better question might be, what inspired you to write about Tamal-da and Didi?

Rita: When I first drafted this novella, I created the story of Tamal-da and Didi in a storm. In a week off between writing chapters of my dissertation on South Asian literary modernisms, I decided to take a break and write something with ferocity. There is something seductive about the idea of the uncanny, the sense of discomfort that appears in suspense novellas, sure, but also that strange tension between two people who meet but never quite see each other fully until it’s too late. Tamal, being a streetwise taxi driver, and his passenger, whom he calls Didi, being a bored out-of-towner obsessed with Marxist poets, makes for an uneasy alliance. They are trapped together in a cab and stranded in the middle of a monsoon hitting Kolkata. To pass the time, they entertain each other with stories. What happens next is uncanny, unbelievable, and strangely seductive.

SRP: And we love their dynamic! Thank you for bring them to life in our imaginations. In our opinion, A Night with Kali is a story within a story. Did you find it challenging to write such an intricate tale? And, for our readers that are writers, were there any particular hurdles or revelations about this choice and process that you could share? 

Rita: From the Pañcatantra to the Arabian Nights to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, I’ve always been interested in stories within stories—with narratives that stop, tunnel, re-start, take you down a rabbit hole and bring you back more alive.

SRP: What’re you working on these days—both in writing and in personal ventures?

Rita: I’m actively working on a few book projects—a book on mid-20th century South Asian poetry and theories of the avant-garde, Echo in Four Beats, my second poetry collection on jazz, mythology, and the breakdown of language, and two new creative writing manuscripts which are currently taking over my life. The first is a collection of non-fiction lyric essays, centered on the concepts of race, sex, politics, and cool, and why I’m completely obsessed with interrogating these ideas as a writer, artist, and human navigating the world. The second book I’m currently working on is what seems like a now eerily prescient novel about a girl named Mel Cassin. Mel lives in a near-future America run by a plutocratic totalitarian regime in which arbitrary laws for the non-elite are normative. Mel faces a conundrum—to pursue what has happened to her family, or to continue existing in an authoritarian world.

Full interview available at “Behind the Story: Author and Scholar Rita Banerjee on ‘A Night with Kali.'” 

Asian American Arts Alliance – Art for Change Meeting – December 8, 7-9 pm * Brooklyn, NY

Art for Change Discussion & Panel
December 8th, 7 – 9:30 pm
Asian American Arts Alliance, 20 Jay Street, Suite 740, Dumbo, Brooklyn 11201

In the wake of the last election, how can we, as artists and arts professionals, empower ourselves?  API leaders from New York City arts organizations will discuss the changing political and social climate and what they think art has the power to do and can do in the coming months. This convening will create a space for the community to gather and collectively brainstorm how to harness artists’ power to change and mediate the discourse in society.  The hour-long panel discussion will be followed by a facilitated breakout session with attendees and a share out. 

Christine Toy Johnson

Rita Banerjee, Executive Director, Kundiman
Devin Oshiro, Artistic Associate, Gibney Dance
Kyoung Park, Artistic Director, Kyoung’s Pacific Beat
Jesca Prudencio, Associated Artist, Ping Chong + Company