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About this poet

Vijay Seshadri was born in Bangalore, India, in 1954 and came to America at the age of five. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where his father taught chemistry at Ohio State University. His poetry collections include 3 Sections (Graywolf Press, 2013), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; The Long Meadow (Graywolf Press, 2004), which won the James Laughlin Award; and Wild Kingdom (1996).

His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in A Public SpaceAGNI, The American Scholar, Antaeus, Bomb, Boulevard, Epiphany, Fence, FieldLumina, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, the Philadelphia Enquirer, Ploughshares, Poetry, The San Diego ReaderShenandoah, The Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, the Times Book Review, TriQuarterly, Verse, Western Humanities Review, The Yale Review, and in many anthologies, including Under 35: The New Generation of American Poets, Contours of the Heart, Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times and The Best American Poetry 1997, 2003, 2006, and 2013.

Seshadri has received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts and has been awarded The Paris Review's Bernard F. Conners Long Poem Prize and the MacDowell Colony's Fellowship for Distinguished Poetic Achievement. He holds an AB degree from Oberlin College and an MFA from Columbia University. He currently teaches poetry and nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, where he has held the Michele Tolela Myers Chair. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.

 

The Descent of Man

My failure to evolve has been causing me a lot of grief lately.
I can't walk on my knuckles through the acres of shattered glass in the streets.
I get lost in the arcades. My feet stink at the soirees.
The hills have been bulldozed from whence cameth my help.
The halfway houses where I met my kind dreaming of flickering lights in the woods 
are shuttered I don't know why. 
"Try," say the good people who bring me my food,
"to make your secret anguish your secret weapon. 
Otherwise, your immortality will be
an exhibit in a vitrine at the local museum, a picture in a book."
But I can't get the hang of it. The heavy instructions fall from my hands.
It takes so long for the human to become a human!
He affrights civilizations with his cry. At his approach,
the mountains retreat. A great wind crashes the garden party.
Manipulate singly neither his consummation nor his despair
but the two together like curettes
and peel back the pitch-black integuments 
to discover the penciled-in figure on the painted-over mural of time, 
sitting on the sketch of a boulder below
his aching sunrise, his moody, disappointed sunset.

Copyright © 2010 by Vijay Seshadri. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2010 by Vijay Seshadri. Used with permission of the author.

Vijay Seshadri

Vijay Seshadri

Vijay Seshadri was born in Bangalore, India, in 1954 and came to America at the age of five.

by this poet

poem

I could complain. I’ve done it before.
I could explain. I could say, for instance, that
I’m sick of being slaughtered in my life’s mountain passes,
covering my own long retreat,
the rear guard of my own brutal defeat—
dysentery and frostbite and snipers,
the mules freezing to death,

2
poem

Even though I’m an immigrant,
the angel with the flaming sword seems fine with me.
He unhooks the velvet rope. He ushers me into the club.
Some activity in the mosh pit, a banquet here, a panhandler there,
a gray curtain drawn down over the infinitely curving lunette,
Jupiter in its

poem

Near the end of one of the old poems, the son of righteousness,
the source of virtue and civility,
on whose back the kingdom is carried
as on the back of the tortoise the earth is carried,
passes into the next world.
The wood is dark. The wood is dark,