Sampurna Chattarji
(Ethiopia, 1970)   
Sampurna Chattarji

Sampurna Chattarji (born in 1970, in Dessie, Ethiopia) is a poet, novelist and translator. She has written two books of poetry: Sight May Strike You Blind, published in 2009, and Absent Muses, published last year. Her poems have been published in several leading journals and anthologies, including Sixty Indian Poets, Fulcrum, The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, among others. Her evocative translations of the Bengali poems of Joy Goswami, which were undertaken for the India domain of the PIW, are in the process of being consolidated into a book. She is based in Thane, near Mumbai.

In a review of her first book of poems (published by the Sahitya Akademi as part of its Navodaya or New Poets Scheme), I wrote: “My personal preference is for the longer poems . . . There is a limbered-up quality here, a well-modulated ease, no persistent need to flash assonance and alliteration, no impulse to flaunt one’s skills. And yet, the skills are very much there, for craft, thankfully, is not a dirty word in Chattarji’s book. As the poet allows the scale of her vision to widen, she finds she’s equal to the task. The result: a poetry of verbal muscle, formal flexibility and control, intellectual curiosity, an ability (particularly in the last section) to throw away a line, toss in an image without overworking it, while operating, like every poet must, on more levels than one.”

The poem featured in this edition is from her first book and one of which I am particularly fond. Surreal and ironic, it brings alive a city’s many contradictions – its vulgarity and its intolerance, its excesses and its inequities – without any editorial comment (except perhaps in the last image of the ‘cage’). What makes the poem particularly effective is the tonal strategy of the broadcast – the feel of crisp News at Nine reportage: “At 7 am today/ a pack of mad dogs rushed into a building and castrated a man./ It happened too fast for the police to be called/ or the BSPCA van to rush in and take the raving canines away./ Five dogs came. Six left.”

In a flash, a city comes alive – dark, comic, irrepressibly Bombay.

© Arundhathi Subramaniam

Selected bibliography


Absent Muses, Poetrywala, Mumbai, 2010 (ISBN 81-89621-18-1)
The Fried Frog and other Funny Freaky Foodie Feisty Poems, Scholastic India, New Delhi, 2009 (ISBN 81-8477-285-8)
Sight May Strike You Blind, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2007 (ISBN 81-260-2420-8)


Rupture, HarperCollins Publishers India, New Delhi, 2009 (ISBN 978-81-7223-779-0)
Three Brothers and the Flower of Gold [fiction/retelling], Scholastic India, New Delhi (ISBN 81-8477-026-X)
Mulla Nasruddin [fiction/retelling], Puffin, New Delhi, 2008 (ISBN: 978-01-4333-007-3)
The Greatest Stories Ever Told, Puffin Books, New Delhi, 2004 (ISBN 06-7005-809-2)


Wordpress: Sampurna Chattarji: Sampurna Chattarji’s blog with links to her poems
You Tube: Sampurna reads her poem ‘Easy’.
Asia-Major, Pratilipi and Open Space India: More poems by Sampurna Chattarji


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