Open Seminars - RHOSE 2024

Rhose 30 | 24 April 2024 | 2pm

Representations of Home Open Seminar


Space Gulliver Returns to a place no stranger than home



Caught between the multiple markers of my identity—a Bengali woman of Indian citizenship who was born in Africa, grew up in Darjeeling, studied in New Delhi and worked in Kolkata—I was a ‘bhoboghurey’ (vagabond) until I fell in love with Bombay/ Mumbai. That was “home at last”, until I realised, “No matter how closely I look, no matter how tightly I cling, I cannot claim it is mine.” Through readings from my poetry, short fiction and collaborative work, I would like to explore some of the ways in which I have grappled with questions of belonging—to place, community, language—while continuing to yearn for an imaginary ‘elsewhere’.



Belonging, unbelonging, alien, English, Bengali, birthplace, translation, collaboration, cities, memory, ancestral, archiving, disappearances, chronicles



SAMPURNA CHATTARJI is a writer, translator, editor and teacher. Her twenty-one books include the short story collection about Bombay/Mumbai, Dirty Love (Penguin, 2013), two novels and eleven poetry titles—the latest being Unmappable Moves from the Mumbai-based indie-press, Poetrywala. Her translation of Sukumar Ray’s poetry and prose – Wordygurdyboom! – is a Puffin Classic; and her translation of Joy Goswami’s prose poems After Death Comes Water (HarperCollins, 2021) has been lauded by Jeremy Noel-Tod (editor of The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem: From Baudelaire to Anne Carson) as a recreation of the Bangla originals in “a living voice, as inventive and vivid as the English of Joyce”. Her books for young people include The Bhyabachyaka and Other Wild Poems (2019), co-authored with Welsh poet, Eurig Salisbury; a YA novel, Ela: The Girl Who Entered the Unknown (2013); The Fried Frog and other Funny Freaky Foodie Feisty Poems (2009), and her modern retelling of the ancient Indian Panchatantra, Three Brothers and the Flower of Gold (2008), all from Scholastic. 

Sampurna wrote Space Gulliver: Chronicles of an Alien, during her Charles Wallace India Trust (CWIT) Writing Residency at the University of Kent, Canterbury. First published by HarperCollins in 2015, Space Gulliver was reissued in 2020 as part of ‘Poetry 10’ – a special keepsake series that presented poetry as “medicine, magic and more”. Her poetry collaborations include Over & Under Ground in Mumbai & Paris (Context, 2018) with Karthika Naïr; and Elsewhere Where Else/ Lle Arall Ble Arall (Poetrywala, 2018) with Welsh poet, Eurig Salisbury.

Her work as an anthologist includes Sweeping the Front Yard (SPARROW 2010), featuring women poets writing in English, Malayalam, Telugu and Urdu; and Future Library: Contemporary Indian Writing (Red Hen Press, 2022), a bold and lively selection of poetry and prose in English and translation, ranging from Kalidasa and Andal to contemporary Indian voices from around the world. She was series editor for a set of 5 books that paired 10 poets from India and Wales for a Poetry Connections project organized by Literature Across Frontiers to mark the 70th anniversary of India’s independence. From 2017 to the magazine’s closure in December 2021, Sampurna Chattarji was poetry editor for The Indian Quarterly. She is currently on the editorial committee of The Portside Review, published out of Perth, Australia; and teaches writing to design students at IIT Bombay.

She has presented her work at Indian and International Book Fairs and Festivals including Hay-on-Wye, Oxford Literary Festival, London Book Fair, Jaipur Literature Festival, JLF@Melbourne, Alchemy 2015: a “Walking Cities” Project celebrating Dylan Thomas’s centenary; Alchemy 2016: Shakespeare’s quatercentenary celebrations, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival, and the Live Literature Festival in Ljubljana, organised by ŠKUC, Centre for Slovenian Literature. As a participant and facilitator of international translation workshops, she has worked with poets from Catalonia, Estonia, France, Galicia, Holland, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Wales. Her own poetry has been translated into the languages of these countries as well as into Arabic, Greek, Gujarati, Kannada, Manipuri and Marathi.

She can be found on Instagram as @ShampooChats.

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