On Rita Banerjee’s ‘Echo in Four Beats’

Banerjee’s extraordinary poetry collection integrates literature, myth, legend, and intentional ‘mis-translation.’


Rita Banerjee
Poetry | 90 Pages | 6” x 9” | Reviewed: Paperback
978–1635344073 | First Edition | $19.99
Finishing Line Press | Georgetown, KY | BUY HERE

In her debut poetry collection, Echo in Four Beats, Rita Banerjee demonstrates mastery of controlled language and shrewd observation. From depictions of the world’s smallest fragments of wonder to an investigation of its vast expansiveness, Banerjee’s breadth of intrinsic compassion reverberates in each poem.

A finalist for the Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award, Three Mile Harbor Poetry Prize, and Aquarius Press / Willow Books Literature Award, Echo in Four Beats conveys an understanding of nature, human connection, literary and historical novelties, and intercontinental divides unlike any other.

In “Pygmalion and Slippers,” Banerjee itemizes concrete objects that would appear individually to have no greater than everyday significance, yet brought together at the sacred Ganges River, they give pause and implore investigation:

“Dusty books, gramophones,
wooden panes,
for every umlaut, there was rain, and shadows
crossing ceilings.
For every moving shade,
there was a jewel,
a bunt cake,
tea with honey,
rubies, too, found them dead in a village
near the Ganges, in some bastard king’s chest.”
(p. 5).

Each poem is unique and compelling in its voice and persona, identities that shapeshift and morph across state lines, borderlands, and oceans. There is agility to the lyricism, images taking shape among lines that swing like pendulums and pivot like spinning tops. Stanzas are built with intentional precision that will drop you into the moments of experience, scrutiny, and enchantment that shudder and reverberate.

“It was a changeling season — 
the albatross had not yet wandered towards the bay
but the seagulls were dancing already
on the winter weed. They had broken
the hard-shelled animals by their seams,
cracked spines with a flash of light.
The parking lot was filled with seaside smells
and the scent of unknown creatures. The gulls murmured
their delight.”
(“Atlantis,” p. 29)

Through integration of literature, myth, legend, and intentional “mis-translation,” Echo in Four Beats is an extraordinary collection by an accomplished author.

MELISSA GRUNOW is a Staff Book Reviewer for The Coil. She is the author of Realizing River City (Tumbleweed Books, 2016), which won Second Place-Nonfiction in the 2016 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards, and her collection of essays, I Don’t Belong Here, is forthcoming from New Meridian Arts Press in fall 2018. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, The Nervous Breakdown, New Plains Review, and Blue Lyra Review, among many others. Her essays have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and listed in the Best American Essays 2016 notables. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction with distinction from National University. Find her at melissagrunow.com.
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