Shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, 2021
Reflections on a reconstructed homeland and Scarborough.
Bittersweet is an exciting, accomplished collection of poems evoking both a reconstructed homeland and Scarborough (Ontario). Using memory?intimate as well as collective?prompted by photographs, maps, language, and folklore, Ramoutar meditates on themes of obscured and suppressed history, time, and liminality. Her poems journey from home to home to home, from Toronto to Guyana to South Asia; and Scarborough remains omnipresent, with a mix of identities and a strong, active, and boisterous youthful presence.
Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer by way of Scarborough (Ganatsekwyagon) at the east side of Toronto. She is the Social Media Assistant at the Festival of Literary Diversity. Her poetry collection, Bittersweet, was published by Mawenzi House in 2020. She is the fiction editor of Feel Ways, an anthology of Scarborough writing, published in 2021. She lives in Scarborough, Ontario.
"With an especially skilled use of internal rhymes, Ramoutar's collection evokes balanced moments of ache, joy, and rumination. "
--Quill & Quire
"Natasha Ramoutar's stunning debut of poems, Bittersweet, is a journey through place and placelessness?a compass reorienting itself at every turn, a seed re-rooting itself in each handful of soil. Ramoutar excavates her heart of its ancestral memory, mining words into faceted gems weighted with meaning and magic. In every stanza, Ramoutar collects the touchstones of her homelands, spinning a complex web of her third-culture identity. Playful as it is powerful, Bittersweet is aptly titled?a honeyed sip of sensory-laden imagery followed by the lingering and ever-present aftertaste of racism and colonial violence. One of the most promising voices of Canadian poetry, Natasha Ramoutar speaks to a generation that deserves to be heard louder and more often. "
--Sheniz Janmohamed, author of Bleeding Light and Firesmoke
"Ramoutar follows the map of her body, guiding us to the edges of the ocean, from Scarborough to Guyana, with candid sincerity and wit. She navigates home and belonging in sun-baked elegies, weaving diasporic alienation and solidarity through sea glass and sugarcane. Bittersweet is the book to bring us home. "
--Shazia Hafiz Ramji, author of Port of Being
"In Bittersweet, Natasha Ramoutar asks both 'how do you unravel a history of trauma, that which is woven within you?' and 'could we speak about joy for once?'?a conundrum that haunts nearly every page of this remarkable debut. Unrelenting but soft, unforgiving but joyful, this collection reveals the deftness of a skilled poet who renovates exhausted narratives of kinship, inheritance, history. Bittersweet is indeed just that. A master class in paradox where the contradiction itself is the lingering, delicious reward. "
--Jenny Heijun Wills, author of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related: A Memoir