Through smoke

By Ayesha Chatterjee

from bottles and bones by ayesha chatterjee

People often ask me if my new collection, Bottles and Bones, has a theme running through it, and I was surprised the first time I found myself saying that it does. I usually have the attention span of a fruit fly and can’t stick to a topic for longer than three poems (if you read my poems, you’ll see how very short they generally are, so that should give you an indication). But a few years ago, I stumbled across a term used in perfumery, fougère, which is a class of fragrances and is also French for ‘fern’. Think Drakkar Noir or Brut. Think oakmoss (a species of lichen. It’s all right, I had to look it up too) and sharp and spicy. But also soundless and green and soft and new. I was hooked.

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Calling all poets!

Submissions are open for Poetry NOW: 5th annual Battle of the Bards and we’re waiting to hear from you!

The Battle of the Bards gives upcoming and established poets a unique opportunity to appear on the IFOA stage. Twenty poets will participate in a night of readings at Harbourfront Centre on April 3, 2013, just in time for National Poetry Month.

Sandra Ridley Poetry NOW 2012

Sandra Ridley, winner of the Poetry NOW: 4th annual Battle of the Bards

“As every poet knows, it’s hard to get heard, at least initially, and the Battle of the Bards offered me that rare opportunity last year of a level playing field,” says Ayesha Chatterjee, one of last year’s participants. “It was exhilarating to be able to read to a new—and very knowledgeable—audience and to be in the company of such a wide range of talented poetic voices from across Canada.”

Interested poets must apply for a place in the event. The participants will be selected at random in advance, and invited to read for five minutes each. This year’s jury is made up of Authors at Harbourfront Centre Director Geoffrey Taylor, Artistic Associate Jen Tindall and a guest judge to be announced March 5 along with the participants list.

The winner receives an ad for their book in NOW Magazine and an invitation to read at the 34th annual International Festival of Authors (October 24 – November 3, 2013).

The submission deadline is February 28 at noon, so get on it! All the details here.

Five Questions with… Ayesha Chatterjee

Poet Ayesha Chatterjee will appear at IFOA on Sunday, October 28. You can also catch her at IFOA Markham on October 23.

© Maayan Ziv

IFOA: You were born in India and have lived in Germany, the USA and now Canada. How does place function in your poetry?

Chatterjee: My poetry tends to be visual, so I use place as a prop a lot. The colours and fabric tend to vary, depending on where the poem is set. I’m also a different person in different countries and I think that comes through in my poetry as well.

IFOA: Did you write as a child, and if so what did you write?

Chatterjee: I’ve been “writing” since I was about 6 years old. I’d dictate to my mother; silly little stories about Bobby the Battery and my little kitten and things like that. I started writing poetry when I was about nine. I found poetry easier than prose, it came to me more naturally (which is why I always wanted to be a novelist). I was very shy about having other people read my poems, though. My parents would ask me to show my latest “work” to their friends and I’d leave the room while they were reading it, because I couldn’t bear to hear them talking about it.

IFOA: Tell us about one poet whose work has influenced your own.

Chatterjee: Emily Dickinson. Which is odd, because I had never even heard of her until I was at university in America. There isn’t a single extraneous word in Dickinson’s poetry. It’s like haiku. She can write a universe in a sentence.

IFOA: What are your favourite and least favourite words – today, at least?

Chatterjee: Obfuscate and viral in that order.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: If I had only known that…

Chatterjee: I’d have a ginger cat who was a thief, perhaps I wouldn’t have named him MaCavity. Would that have changed him?

IFOA: Bonus question: International Festival of Authors in one word:

Chatterjee: Cornucopia.

For more about Chatterjee, visit or readings. org.