| Book Awards 2022 | Creative Writing in English (Fiction & Poetry)
Jhilam Chattaraj writes of the challenges and rewards of teaching, writing, loving, and connecting across distances in a universe of apps and absent ringtones. Wry, affectionate, delicately-modulated and determined to ‘sing sunward,’ these poems in praise of food, love, longing, and literature map the recurrent and ancient human need to "tap the air / for the sweet wound of knowledge." — ARUNDHATHI SUBRAMANIAM Noise Cancellation — with its urgent and sometimes visceral evocations — is written largely using a well-tended couplet form. The parallel lines here allude to and offer contrapuntal dualities of our current fraught times — the pair and play of yin-yang lyrics reflecting the presence of too much vacuous noise that drowns out our interior reflective sounds — the contradictory ironies of fact and ‘fake news’ where “jarring neurons map an ambush” — the menace of ‘cancel culture’ and rumour-mongers as “ears pour nude noise / on palms that swell and spill.” Jhilam Chattaraj is an intelligent poet and critic, an exciting young voice to watch out for! — SUDEEP SEN Jhilam is truly a poet rooted in the pain and reality of our turbulent present. And finding the words to nail it, she provides what good poetry should; relief and sanity. ‘Sari’ leaves you softly musing on forgotten feelings. In ‘Final Feathers,’ the lines, “Season after season we mapped / winged massacres along war lines,” leave you gasping for breath. This poetry without being didactic can delicately wring your heart, reopening old wounds, forcing you to look at the truth in the face. Jhilam has a lot to give us if we are capable of taking it. — VASANTH KANNABIRAN
In the age of ceaseless information, ‘Noise Cancellation’ rewards readers with a sustainable consciousness. Poems long (‘Active Noise Control’) and short (‘Portraits in Pods’) envision a life where attention is paid to everyday details, instead of constant digital alerts. The poems evoke sensations through language; aural, visual, tactile, olfactory. Potatoes cooking in poppy seeds, a wet sari soaking the sun, a husky dreaming of snow in the heat of Hyderabad, dilemmas of online education, echo of Kalidasa’s Meghaduta in the letters of lovers separated during Covid-19 become the emotional nucleus of the collection. The poems aspire to heal the mind, body and soul affected by the chaos of the pandemic.
The collection was conceived in 2019, when a major shift occurred within me. I began to experience life, more viscerally. All of my works published across journals and anthologies were essentially about breaking life down to bare minimum; a search for naked clarity. I wanted to see but also see through.
I decided to purchase a pair of headphones, when I came across the term, ‘Noise Cancellation.’ A moment of Joycean Epiphany struck me; life gifted me a spiritual metaphor. I used it as a yardstick to measure my intellectual and emotional investments.
I am happy that I have a book to offer to the world; a silent companion that will make readers cherish the oozing warmth of life.
The Book has been an Amazon Best Seller in the Asian Literature Category.
‘Noise Cancellation’ has been Reviewed and Featured at the following venues: The Hindu, The Colorado Review, The Hans India, Outlook India, The News Minute, The Statesman, Kitaab, The Hong Kong Review, Sakshi, Telangana Today, Namaste Telangana, Deccan Herald, Transcendent Zero Press, The Book Review, Inflections Magazine among others.
The book has generated several online conversations with noted academics and poets.
The book was released at The Nilgiris Library, Ooty, Oxford Book Stores Online, Hyderabad Book Fair, Valley of Words Literature Festival, Hyderabad, IIT Hyderabad, Indialogue Foundation, New Delhi, K L University Hyderabad, Jaipur Literature Festival (Writer’s Shorts), Drukyul’s Literature Festival, Bhutan.
Jhilam Chattaraj is an academic and poet based in Hyderabad, India. She has authored the books, Noise Cancellation (poetry), Corporate Fiction: Popular Culture and the New Writers and When Lovers Leave and Poetry Stays (poetry). Her works have been published at Colorado Review, World Literature Today Room, Porridge, Not Very Quiet, Queen Mob’s Tea House, and Asian Cha among others. She received the CTI Excellence Award in “Literature and Soft Skills Development,” 2019 from the Council for Transforming India and the Department of Language and Culture, Government of Telangana, India. She also won the First place at the Readomania Woman Swag Poetry Contest, March, 8 2022, by Readomania Publications, New Delhi.
Six yards of soft wetness
soak the forenoon sun.
Cotton expanse in powder blue,
filigreed edges in faux gold,
puff like sails in sea wind;
a voyage into endurance.
My mother’s sari is a scripture,
a flag carrying countries of household truths:
she, in bed with children,
she, scrubbing the mossy bathroom walls,
she, in kitchen, smashing
a cockroach to its end.
There’s love and violence
that only the pleats of the sari know.
Now, so much depends
on the bee-loud-brilliance of the sari,
drifting in fragrant droplets into the air;
claiming its share of radiance
from farmers, weavers and men;
their curious figurines
melting into a fabric — ripe with moisture
and a million perforations.