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Friday, 28 November 2008

Poem by Sampurna Chattarji

Eyewear is delighted to welcome Sampurna Chattarji (pictured) this Friday. Born in Dessie, Ethiopia in 1970, Chattarji is an award-winning poet, fiction writer and translator.

Her books include The Greatest Stories Ever Told (fiction) and Abol Tabol: The Nonsense World of Sukumar Ray (translation) both published by Penguin India. Her poetry has featured on Hong Kong Radio; in the international documentary Voices in Wartime; in First Proof: The Penguin Book of New Writing from India 2; Fulcrum Four: Fifty-six Indian Poets (1951-2005) and Imagining Ourselves, an anthology released by the International Museum of Women (IMOW) in San Francisco; as well as in Indian and international journals such as Wasafiri, nthposition, Slingshot, The Little Magazine and Chandrabhaga. Sampurna is an Executive Committee Member of the PEN All-India Centre, Mumbai, and on the Editorial Board of its journal, Penumbra.

Her first book of poems Sight May Strike You Blind has been published (January, 2007) by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters. I first met her through the 100 Poets Against The War work I did in 2003-04 (she submitted poems that were in the anthology), and we had tea in London's Marylebone, and talked of many things, a year or so ago, as she travelled through on her way back home. She's very talented, and deserves to be widely read. I hope that, in time, the work of her generation of Indian poets, who write in English, will be better known (and more widely published) in Britain, and beyond.

Salt

Salt
of the earth,
all subtlety dies
with a pinch too much.
You taste freedom,
the knife-edge on your teeth.

Faceless men eat saltless food
in a north-western frontier town.
You cannot eat the salt of a man
you might one day need
to kill.
A blood-feud bursts,
froth at the corner of your mouth.

It kills you one grain at a time.
You crave it cold
crusted on a glass
a leech of lemon on your lip.
In hard times a bite of chilli and salt.
In good times a bite of chilli. And salt.

Then one day,
tired of domesticity,
you turn into a pillar.
No looking back now.
Your saline gaze fills oceans.
You melt into tears
warm and salt on my tongue.

poem by Sampurna Chattarji
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