This weekend we are featuring the work of poet and critic Vijay Seshadri, who was born in India and came to the US when he was five years old. A former member of The New Yorker‘s editorial staff, he now teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Richard Wilbur has praised Seshadri’s poems as “wittily alive to everything, continually quick and surprising, expertly turned.” He’s published three collections, and the latest, 3 Sections, elicited these words of praise from the novelist Jonathan Franzen: “An extraordinarily naked modern consciousness, an intensely experienced dislocation, a beautiful intelligence: Seshadri’s poetry is exhilarating.”
Our first poem from Seshadri is “Visiting Paris”:
They were in the scullery talking.
The meadow had to be sold to pay their riotous expenses;
then the woods by the river,
with its tangled banks and snags elbowing out of the water,
had to go; and then the summer house where they talked—
all that was left of an estate once so big
a man riding fast on a fast horse
couldn’t cross it in a day. Genevieve. Hortense. Mémé.
The family’s last born, whose pale name is inscribed on the rolls
of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. As in the fresco of the Virgin,
where the copper in the pigment oxidizes to trace a thin green cicatrix
along a seam of Her red tunic,
a suspicion of one another furrowed their
consanguine, averted faces.
Why go anywhere at all when it rains like this,
when the trees are sloppy and hooded
and the foot sinks to the ankle in the muddy lane?
I didn’t stay for the end of the conversation.
I was wanted in Paris. Paris, astounded by my splendor
and charmed by my excitable manner,
waited to open its arms to me.