Book Launch: Echo in Four Beats (poems) by Rita Banerjee Available for Pre-Order October 10 – December 8, 2017!


Rita Banerjees poetry debut, Echo in Four Beats, is now available for pre-order on the Finishing Line Press website from October 10 – December 8, 2017!

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.  Echo in Four Beats, which was a finalist for the Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award, the Three Mile Harbor Book Prize, the Aquarius Press/Willow Books Literature Award, will be released by Finishing Line Press on February 2, 2018.

Early Praise for Echo in Four Beats:

Echo in Four Beats sounds the singular pulse of Harlem, Kyoto, Nainital and San Francisco to uncover a deeper mystery; what makes a word into a sensation, a sensation into a moment and what, in the swirling constellation of geographies, turns a moment into the sublime. Amidst the kinetic search for buried treasure in everyday encounters with photocopiers and the breathless search for lost objects, there are also unexpected collisions with silence so shocking, they stop us dead in our tracks. We realise the whiteness between words was here all along; its stillness curving the inside of this syncopated journey across time and space.”

— Dipika Guha, playwright and author of Mechanics of Love and The Rules, and screenwriter for American Gods

“Rita Banerjee’s Echo in Four Beats is a lyric wonder. Wildly intertextual and multilingual, Banerjee mines literatures, histories, and geographies, both eastern and western, to produce an expansive collection of poems. The breadth of her work is staggering and yet utterly approachable, at once intimate and worldly. This may well be the first truly post-national book of poems I’ve ever read. I look forward to reading it again and again.”

— Jaswinder Bolina, author of The 44th of July, Phantom Camera, andCarrier Wave

“Rita Banerjee’s Echo in Four Beats is a multilingual, intercontinental arpeggio of a journey on which ‘one layer/ of enchantment// dispels another.’ From Ovid to Baudelaire, from Manhattan to Atlantis to the Ganges, these poems conjure shape-shifting and gyroscopic worlds where erasure is sustenance, myth is religion, and home is but a constant state of momentary arrivals. Banerjee’s attentive, precise, incantatory poems reverberate ‘not sound not/ voice” and resound with the “enchantments of art/ and life.’”

— Tara Skurtu, author of The Amoeba Game and Skurtu, Romania

“In our narcissism-addled times, Rita Banerjee awakens Echo out of mythical slumber and accords her center stage, with stirring results. These poems dance nimbly from the playful to the sacred, the pentatonic-ancient to the jazzy-contemporary, the observational to the contemplative, and cross languages and borders with abandon, from trains in India to a Munich museum to the local copy shop. Yet while they may ‘change [their] temperament as quickly as salamanders change skin,’ Echo in Four Beats  is constantly returning us to a tonic center and rebuilding its chords and arpeggios anew, offering a music both savory and profound.”

— Tim Horvath, author of Understories and Circulation

“Banerjee’s polyglot collection–pushing at the edges of language; abounding with erasure, mistranslation and wit; impossible to contain in a single tongue. From the smallest pieces of our world–the falling snow, cobblestone, a reflection in the water–Banerjee has crafted something astonishing that reaches towards higher truths.”

— Stephen Aubrey, author of Daguerreotype and What I Took in My Handand Co-Artistic Director of The Assembly Theater, NYC

Pre-Order Echo in Four Beats on the Finishing Line Press website now!

ritabanerjeeRita Banerjee the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and editor of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press, March 2018).  She is the author of the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (Finishing Line Press, February 2018), which was a finalist for the Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award, Three Mile Harbor Poetry Prize, and Aquarius Press / Willow Books Literature Award, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press, 2016), and the poetry chapbook Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press, 2010). 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 the Academy of American Poets, Poets & Writers, Nat. Brut.The ScofieldThe Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, 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.  She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington.  She is an Associate Scholar of Comparative Literature at Harvard and teaches at Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich in Germany.  She is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays on race, sex, politics, and everything cool.

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Echo in Four Beats – poetry debut by Rita Banerjee – forthcoming in February 2018

Combining elements, rhythms, and personas from American jazz, blues, and ragtime, poet Rita Banerjee presents a multi-lingual, 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.  Echo in Four Beats, which was a finalist for the Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the Aquarius Press/Willow Books Literature Award, will be released by Finishing Line Press on February 2, 2018.  The poetry manuscript will be available for pre-order on Finishing Line Press’s website from October 10 – December 8, 2017.  On Rita Banerjee’s poetry, the following writers have written:

“Rita Banerjee’s poems are an acrobatic music, a swinging erudition, a hip lyric to make shape of Whitman’s ‘ostent evanescent,’ a phrase he uses to conjure the metaphysical projections of the physical world. Banerjee, with thrilling compression and off-beat breaks, fashions a multi-dimensional America…With wit, play, consonance, anagram, assonance, the unexpected rhyme, Banerjee offers, in this short collection, a material, feminist, postcolonial critique of where we are as a nation, what we are made of, what we fail to make, and what we can make of language regardless…’ – Patrick Rosal, author of Brooklyn Antediluvian, My American Kundiman, and Uprock, Headspin, Scramble, and Dive

“’I had no roam / no hope to / call a // road’” writes Rita Banerjee, but I don’t believe her for a second. This is a mobile and hopeful speaker, capable of making her home in a rail car heading out of Manipal just as easily as she inhabits Renoir’s Bougival. Throughout, the worldliness is laced with heartache, in search of “’some solace that would heal the lines / between blue and continent.’” ~ Srikanth Reddy, author of Voyager and Facts for Visitors

“Rita Banerjee’s poems spin the reader into a world of tightly packed imagery that leaves us gasping at the edge of violent endings or floating in wondrous, ancient silences. With lyric intensity, delicacy, and humor, she has the capacity to make places and sounds palpable, taking the reader on a journey from Harlem to the Himalayas. This is a new voice of hypnotizing and rare beauty.” ~ Diana Norma Szokolyai, author of Parallel Sparrows and Roses in the Snow

ritabanerjeeRita Banerjee is the 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, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, 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 poetry chapbook, 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.  Her debut poetry collection, Echo in Four Beats, which was a finalist for the Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the Aquarius Press/Willow Books Literature Award, will be released by Finishing Line Press on February 2, 2018.  And her edited volume, CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, will be released by C&R Press on March 7, 2018.  She is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays.

On Shaping and Reshaping: In Conversation with Z.G. Tomaszewski

4fb29487fe4c6c7af8c349366222f9e1Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Grant Writing & Programming Intern AM Ringwalt recently sat down to chat with Z.G. Tomaszewski, a poet and musician living in Grand Rapids, to discuss his writing. Check out the interview below.

 

Z.G. Tomaszewski and I met last summer in Missoula, Montana, at a small retreat organized by our long-time mentor Chris Dombrowski. During our time together, Z.G. was deeply influenced by readingand sharingthe work of Li-Young Lee. At our nightly dinners and campfires, he would ofteneither by memory or with book in handrelay bits of gleaned wisdom. When I learned that Z.G.’s manuscript All Things Dusk had been selected by Li-Young Lee as the winner of the Hong Kong University International Poetry Prize, I knew how much this honor meant to him.

The reader of All Things Dusk ought to take heart in Li-Young Lee’s assertion: “These visionary poems suggest that every world is manifold worlds, that mundane experience is saturated with the sacred if we practice using the heart’s and soul’s eyes to look and see. In this book, the world is measured by the heart’s scale and the soul’s rule, and the result is a beautiful human singing.” I certainly did. I, taken by the blurb and the mission of Z.G.’s literary work, desired to learn more.

Last month, Z.G. and I found ourselves back in Dombrowski’s Montana, this time at the 406 Writers’ Workshop’s Beargrass Retreat. The retreat, which successfully aims to “gather some of the West’s most celebrated and promising writers at this storied ranch for four days of readings, workshops, craft talks, and generative writing opportunities that connect writers of all experience levels with self and place,” was a conduit for our friendship to grow and long-awaited discussions of our respective creative work to come to fruition. This interview began over email and ultimately came together by way of more campfire talks. It came to a bittersweet conclusion over jasmine green tea at Missoula’s Caffe Dolce, right before Z.G. turned to the mountains of Glacier National Park.

Z.G. and I share a deep love for Michigan. Born within bicycling distance of its lake, he lives in Grand Rapids as a self-proclaimed poet-rambler, handyman, and musician, as well as co-director of Lamp Light Music Festival and a founding member of Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters. I, too, spend my summers on Lake Michigan by way of Petoskey. Naturally, my first question centers around that magical lake.

AM Ringwalt: In “Summer Song of Lake Michigan,” you write, “Who could resist / the temptation of centering oneself?” Do you consider the act of centering to be spiritual, or something else?

Z.G. Tomaszewski: Sure, the act of centering is at once spiritual and practical. It’s a tuning into the logos of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I like being tilted, leaning over, scaling the range, but there’s a return inherent in me backing away from polarity. Balance. Moderation. Picture a buoy.

AMR: How does the temptationthat tilting, leaning over, scaling the range, and final backing away from polarityinform your creative process?

ZGT: For one thing, temptation seems never-ending. I’m intrigued by its nature, its place in eternity. I often think that temptation is not just lusting for something else, craving the other, but an end in and of itself. Or am I speaking about desire? Desire fills moments of forgetting, wanting to be shattered and rebuilt. These are two trimmings from a cloud I cannot quite grasp yet. All I know is that when temptation is quieted I am hollow of impulse for a moment. What’s great about temptation is not always relieving it, but seeing what we are and are not capable of, and then learning to be disciplined accordingly. And thus our shortcomings are windows into the soul of how to be whole, with and without.

AMR: Had All Things Dusk already been selected as the winner of the Hong Kong University International Poetry Prize, since it’s dated back to 2014?

ZGT: I did not know All Things Dusk had been chosen by Li-Young Lee at that time. It wasn’t until a week after returning home from the big sky state that I received the acceptance letter from Hong Kong University Pressit was probably in the mail and I tapped into that wave of energy headed my way! I remember I had with me Book of My Nights while we were there in Missoula. Chris Dombrowski saw I was reading it and asked if I ever read the book of collected interviews with Li-YoungI had not. He let me borrow it for a spell, I read most of it then and there.

AMR: Fascinating. Did your perception of the manuscript change during or after Montana? If so, how? If not, how did Montana solidify your pre-conceived notions of the text?

ZGT: I recall the premonition I had while in Montana that I was “on the cusp of something big.” I felt a breakthrough was happening, but I wasn’t certain what exactly. I can surely say that I was not thinking about All Things Dusk during that week. Instead, prior to coming out [to Montana], I was focused on a second full volume: fixing it up and tearing it down. I wrote a handful of new poems while at the initial retreat, brought them back, continued to hammer out the second manuscript. I knew what I had in All Things Dusk should not be touched, lest it break off and sink altogether. It was the work being done on a new volume that informed me I had completed something and needed to continue moving away.

AMR: It’s important to trust in such premonitions. Speaking of: you have a chapbook forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (congrats!) called Mineral Whisper, which I understand you wrote inand inspired byCounty Clare, Ireland. What called you there?

ZGT: I traveled to Ireland first during the Summer of 2012 and then revisited the following Spring of 2013. Somehow I was invited by Thomas Lynch, given a chance to stay in his ancestral cottage in Moveen, minutes walking and at cliff’s edge on the Atlantic coast. Pastures for miles, centuries, lifetimes. The polychromatic palate of grays and greens! I have been called to places that I have trouble voicing why I was called there. It’s elemental. A deeper knowing that gets lost to language. Reclaiming this through poetry—that’s one reason I keep writing. An act of archaeology: uncovering the spirit, brief invisible bit of consciousness, bringing forward awareness of what pulls us onward, elsewhere.

AMR: Can you pinpoint the moment of the chapbook’s inception?

ZGT: Mineral Whisper was composed in large during my first stay in Ireland. I wrote most of the poems during that time (minus the beginning two weeks, in which I was studying the place, not able to write, not wanting to hurry speech, needing to adapt to the land, its vibrations) and found upon coming home that there was far too much cohesion to let them lay alone, scattered, in notebooks, in drawers. So, when I ventured back I brought all the poems with me (every one had been edited by this point) and found a thread pretty soon after unpacking. The sequence came together without much difficulty. I had a lot of space and time to focus on it.

The precise moment: Waking early one morning, rain, looking out the window and seeing a white horse perfectly framed, the window wavy and it seemed a unicorn was standing there looking in. I was working on the title poem at that moment. I trusted what passed between us as a sign.

AMR: Back to the first premonition! The poems of All Things Dusk deal with uncovering memory. Is this uncovering part of centering, or something else entirely?

ZGT: Memory is the brain’s faculty of most efficiently processed stimuli, compacted and stored for easy access, but always failing. In some fashion it’s like gravity, we know it by its ever-presence, or its absence. Voice is the flashlight by which we explore the caverns of the mind. Memory thick with stalagmites, impassable trenches.

AMR: How does memory shape your poetic voice?

ZGT: Sometimes we can walk right up to an experience and blind it or be blinded by it, touch it, but most often we’re steering our light past a bend, watching the beam curve and break off, so we reach (or not) into the dark and imagine the connecting details. Poetry is connectivity even if it’s by way of deranging the senses.

AMR: I see the narrator of these poems as a dexterous force, particularly through the recurrence of direct relationships with the earth and with the metallic (“I take the scythe, sharpen its blade”). These themes, of course, are only made more evident in “Again, My Grandfather Chops Wood.”

An aside: I’m reminded of Galvinwho is with us at Beargrassespecially his poem “Coming into His Shop from a Bright Afternoon.” I noticed, in my research, that Dombrowski actually interviewed Galvin about this very poem in an old issue of Orion.

In the poem, Galvin writes about shaping the earth. Your poetry is, in many ways, the spiritual manifestation of the physical shaping the earth. How (and why) do you aim to shape, to reshape?

ZGT: Yes, I like that: “the spiritual manifestation of the physical shaping the world.” And I value that poem of Galvin’s, it’s in a similar vein as Seamus Heaney’s “Digging.” I am fond of the inner-workings of the world and our connections in it. Like the pagan and cold mountain poets I find that the truer, more lasting realizations in my life have been by observing and then learning how to participate within it. The materials of language are no different to me than a landscape, its ecosystem. I see something beautiful, sometimes I touch it, maybe take it with me, sometimes I leave it, mostly I leave it.

Anything can be a poem, but not everything is one. It’s a matter of wading out into the water, not just staring at it, and then, now you’re in the river, you cast, and cast again, who really knows what the catch will be. In other words, I have no other aim than to go out into the world and it seems I simply tend to reshape the world in reflection of the way it has shaped me.

Z.G. Tomaszewski‘s writing has appeared in RHINO, diode and Inverness AlmanacMineral Whisper will be released December 9, 2016 from Finishing Line Press.