India-born poet wins 2014 Pulitzer Prize

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Apr 15, 2014 20:57 IST

New York college teacher Vijay Seshadri on Monday became the first Indian-American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his work "3 Sections" published last year.

The award, granted annually to "a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author", comes with a cash component of $10,000, and a surge in book sale.

Seshadri, who lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College — both in New York, was born in Bangalore in 1954 and came to the US with his family when he was five.

Past Indian-American winners of the Pulitzer prize are Jhumpa Lahiri in 2000 for "Interpreter of Maladies"; and Siddhartha Mukherjee in 2011, for "The Emperor of All Maladies".

The Pulitzer citation described Seshadri’s "3 Sections" as "a compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless".

Seshadri grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where his father taught chemistry at the Ohio State University. For a time, he worked in the fishing and logging industries.
But poetry it was that he wanted to do most.

His works include "The Long Meadow" (2004), which won the James Laughlin Award winner, and "Wild Kingdom" (1996). He has been carried by all major publications.

Seshadri teaches poetry and non-fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. He couldn’t be reached for comments.

Past winners of the Pulitzer for poetry include Robert Frost — a record four times, W H Auden and Sylvia Plath, posthumously.

Pulitzer prizes are granted annually in two broad categories of journalism and non-journalism, which then splinter into many sub-categories that also include fiction.

This year’s most prestigious journalism Pulitzer — for public service — was shared by The Washington Post and The Guardian US for their reporting on Edward Snowden’s leaks.

Their reports raised questions about US spy agency NSA’s widespread collection of phone and online data traveling through the US, including from India.

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