25th Trillium Award

On the Road with Ayesha Chatterjee: The IFOA Ontario Interview Series

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Ayesha Chatterjee

Many of Ontario's most passionate and dedicated readers live in communities spread across the province, so the International Festival of Authors (IFOA), now in its 33rd year, is taking its show on the road to bring its exciting program of literary events to 14 locations throughout Ontario. From October 16th to November 2nd, outstanding authors from Canada and across the world will visit Barrie, Brantford, Burlington, Hamilton, Markham, Midland, Parry Sound, Picton, Orillia, Owen Sound, Thunder Bay, Uxbridge, Windsor and Woodstock.

Today Open Book speaks with Ayesha Chatterjee, who will be reading in Markham on Tuesday, October 23, along with Marjorie Celona, Chan Koonchung and Vincent Lam. Ayesha's first collection of poetry, The Clarity of Distance, (Bayeux Arts) was released last year. If you can't make it to her reading in Markham, you'll be able to catch her at the IFOA in Toronto on October 28th.

For more information about Ayesha'a IFOA events in Markham and Toronto, visit the OBO Events Page and the OBT Events page.

Open Book:

Tell us about what you?ll be reading at this year?s IFOA Ontario festival.

Ayesha Chatterjee:

I?m reading from my first collection of poems, The Clarity of Distance (Bayeux Arts, 2011). They are poems that I wrote over a period of about two and a half years, many of them while in the process of moving from Germany to Toronto. I think you will be able to tell which poems were written where, from the colours and textures in them as well as the settings. There are also some written in and about Calcutta, which will always be a part of me, even though I haven?t lived there in decades. My poems are short and lyrical, and hopefully accessible enough to resonate with readers no matter what their background. So often people tell me that they tend to steer away from poetry, because they find it intimidating. I would like more than anything to have readers find lines or images, perhaps even entire poems in The Clarity of Distance that they can identify with in some way or that cause a shift in how they view the world. That is what my favourite poems have done for me and it?s why I write.


What are you most looking forward to about reading in the town of your IFOA Ontario event?


Everything! The Mayor is holding a reception before the readings with a visual arts exhibit and WordSlam performances which I can?t wait to see. And I?m really looking forward to meeting the other authors (Vincent Lam, Marjorie Celona and Chan Koonchung) and hearing them read. This will be my first time in Markham, so that?s exciting too.


How do you manage the shift between being solitary writer and a public reader?


It?s odd, you know; on the one hand, I find it terrifying. Much easier to release my poetry into the world through the safety of print or the internet in a closet-exhibitionist sort of way. I usually can?t see beyond my reading dates, as though the world were ending then and nothing could possibly happen afterwards. But on the other hand, when I?m standing there, reading, it?s almost like being in that state of intense focus that I am in when I write, where every word must be carefully chosen and I am completely absorbed in the universe of the poem. I always write with an imaginary reader in mind. What an immense privilege it is, therefore, to have a real audience listening. It?s a huge rush.


What is one luxury you allow yourself when you go "on tour" with a book?


I?m new at this, so going ?on tour? is in itself a luxury!


What book (aside from your own) will you have with you in your bag while you travel to the location of your IFOA Ontario reading?


I probably won?t have a book with me when I go to Markham, since I?m returning to Toronto that evening, but if you?d like to know what I?m reading at the moment, I?ve just started Erin Morgenstern?s The Night Circus. And Lorna? Crozier?s The Blue Hour of the Day.

Visit litontour.com for more details about IFOA Ontario.

Born and raised in Kolkata, India, Ayesha Chatterjee has lived in England, the USA and Germany, and currently resides in Toronto. Her work gained notice when one of her poems was shortlisted in the Guardian Unlimited Poetry Workshop in October 2004. Her poetry has appeared in nthposition, Autumn Sky Poetry, and BluSlate. She has read in India, Germany and Canada and will be reading at the International Festival of Authors in Markham and Toronto this month. Her first poetry collection, The Clarity of Distance, is a meditation on the complexity of existence and the search for moments of truth within it.

For more information about The Clarity of Distance please visit the Bayeux Arts website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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