An Exuberance of Words
Kalyani Dutta
WORDS SPIT AND SPLINTER: POEMS by Debjani Chatterjee Redbeck Press, Bradford, 2011, 70 pp., 00.00
August 2017, volume 35, No 8/9

To be able to distill your love for words and art into the work that you do for a living, and that work of a nature that fulfills a niche in society, is to be fortunate. Debjani Chatterjee, well known and much awarded poet from Sheffield, England, was once a community relations officer. She helped many estranged, isolated women acquire a sense of identity and relief through writing, whereby was born a little book, Kanta Tarer Bera i.e. ‘Barbed Lines’. She was awarded the MBE in 2008 by the Queen for her tireless work both as a poet and for the Asian community. She reads for children in schools, libraries, cancer hospitals, runs a cancer survivors’ group (‘Survivor’s Poetry’), as well as the Bengali Women’s Cooperative. For children she has written many stories, some republished in India by Rupa and HarperCollins.

As a translator, she keeps the bond between the writers of the subcontinent alive and has been invited to Lahore in recognition of her work. In 2000 she won an award for her publication The Redbeck Anthology of British South Asian Poetry. Peter Forbes named her among three notable Asian women poets in an article ‘British Poetry in the Nineties’.

One assumed that the title of the present volume of poetry Words Spit and Splinter was born out of her fierce battle with the imperial malady and medical bureaucracy. Surprisingly the 59 poems here evince no bitterness or anger. She transmutes her pain and fear with irony. The X-ray is like ‘spears of saffron—lava’, a healing gift from Surya (Radiotherapy).

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