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.

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