Aye­sha Chat­ter­jee

Room Magazine - - STEWART -

We spoke to for­mer League of Cana­dian Poets pres­i­dent Aye­sha Chat­ter­jee about mak­ing space for women of colour in in­flu­en­tial lit­er­ary roles.

As for­mer pres­i­dent of the League of Cana­dian Poets, what were some of your goals go­ing into the role? Did you meet or ex­ceed any of these? I knew I wanted to try to bring po­etry more into the main­stream of Cana­dian life so that it was as nat­u­rally ex­pe­ri­enced and spo­ken about as, say, fic­tion or film. And I also wanted very badly to have a way to show­case the full range of Cana­dian po­etic voices rather than what I per­ceived, back in 2010, to be a fairly nar­row cross-sec­tion of mostly An­glo-Saxon po­etry. For the past two years, po­ems by League poets have been pub­lished and pro­moted along­side their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts across North Amer­ica. In ad­di­tion, the League’s vice-pres­i­dent, Sarah de Leeuw, who is now pres­i­dent, started the League’s first broad­sheet con­test this year as a fundrais­ing ini­tia­tive.

Be­ing a woman of colour and hold­ing such an im­por­tant role in the Cana­dian lit­er­a­ture world, how can we make sure more women of colour main­tain such space? Speak­ing purely from the space that I have filled, I can tell you that it is im­por­tant to look to­ward the fu­ture, to fill up­com­ing roles with women from vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties, so that they con­tinue to have a voice in po­si­tions of power and can af­fect change. Ob­vi­ously, it is es­sen­tial to choose wisely, be­cause that makes all the dif­fer­ence. We are for­tu­nate to have on coun­cil this year Rita Bou­vier as our Saskatchewan rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and Nasra Adem as our Al­berta rep. To quote Ma­hatma Gandhi, “if we could change our­selves, the at­ti­tudes of the world would also change. As a (per­son) changes (their) own na­ture, so does the at­ti­tude of the world change to­ward (them) . . . we need not wait to see what oth­ers do.”

Could you name an emerg­ing writer that you’d love to see more of? Doy­ali Is­lam and her sis­ter, Laboni. Two beau­ti­fully lyri­cal poets with very dif­fer­ent styles. The poem that Doy­ali sub­mit­ted won the League’s broad­sheet con­test. I think they are both def­i­nitely poets to watch.

—Chelene Knight

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.