MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Faculty Rita Banerjee’s essay “Birth of Cool,” which appeared in the Silence & Power issue of Hunger Mountain, was recently named a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2020 edited by André Aciman.
“Birth of Cool” is a braided essay about 9/11, love, coolness, and the death of her grandfather, her first icon of “cool.” In “Birth of Cool,” Rita Banerjee examines her growing infatuation with everything styled and aestheticized. She investigates how 9/11 signaled the death of irony, but not of cool, which she imparts from her idols, from Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix to MTV and Jon Stewart. In “Birth of Cool,” Banerjee explains why she chose a life of aesthetics, style, and emotional distance over that of politics, righteousness, and explicit social engagement. In this essay, she confronts her own agency and observes how her own sense of cool is birthed as a coping mechanism against social trauma.
You can read “Birth of Cool” online on Hunger Mountain here:
You can read the print version of “Birth of Cool” by order Hunger Mountain, Issue 23: Silence & Power here: https://hungermtn.submittable.com/submit/68385/purchase-back-issue
The Vermont Art Council also announced that Rita Banerjee is among the 23 outstanding writers and artists who received a Creation Grant, one of its most sought-after award this year. The grant is funded in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, state, and private donors. Banerjee received a Creation Grant to support the creation of her memoir and manifesto of how female “cool” subverts social, sexual, and economic pressure. One of the opening chapters of Banerjee’s book is “Birth of Cool.”
Among this year’s Creation Grant winning proposals are works that span visual arts, literary arts, dance, music, film, and multidisciplinary fields, including a music video exploring unjust land ownership for African Americans; a nonfiction book tracing five generations beginning in Iran and ending in Vermont; a tintype photography series capturing Vermont women and aging; and several works exploring social justice themes.
Artistic excellence is the most important criteria in evaluating an application for this highly competitive award. A record 202 applications were received for the FY2022 program, collectively requesting a total of $808,000.
The Council typically has funding to support approximately 12-15% of requests for the annual grant. But thanks to the Vermont Community Foundation’s Arts Endowment Fund, along with generous contributions from Vermont Performance Lab and individual donors, the Council was able to provide eight additional Creation Grants this year.
Recipients were selected by two independent panels comprised of 28 practicing Vermont artists and arts professionals. Applicants could submit audio or video files for their proposals in place of written applications.
“The range of artistic talent in Vermont takes my breath away,” said Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman. “We are pleased that new partnerships and generous private donations — so vital in this pandemic year — have enabled us to support the creative endeavors of twenty-three outstanding artists.”
Rita Banerjee is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Co-Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing program at the George Polk School of Communications at Long Island University Brooklyn. Dr. Banerjee is the editor of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing (C&R Press), and the author of the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats (Finishing Line Press), the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), and the poetry chapbook Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets, Poets & Writers, Hunger Mountain, PANK, Nat. Brut., Isele Magazine, and elsewhere. She is an Editor-at-Large of the South Asian Avant-Garde and the co-writer and co-director of Burning Down the Louvre (2022), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. You can follow her work at ritabanerjee.com.