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Poetry can never lose its sheen, says Pulitzer Prize winner Vijay Seshadri

Poetry can never lose its sheen, believes India-born Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Vijay Seshadri. The poet tells us about his influences, poetry in India, and returning to Mumbai after more than five decades.

books Updated: Oct 31, 2014 14:17 IST
Ruchika Kher
Ruchika Kher
Hindustan Times
vijay seshadri,vijay seshadri poems,vijay seshadri work

Brooklyn based poet Vijay Seshadri, who moved to the US from Bengaluru at the age of five, made news in April, when he was awarded this year's Pultizer Prize for poetry for his collection of poems, 3 Selections.

The 60-year-old is now set to visit the city for a literary festival. In an email interview, the poet tells us about his influences, poetry in India, and returning to Mumbai after more than five decades.

How different will this trip be from your last one to India?
My last trip was to Bengaluru in 2003 for a wedding. This one, to Mumbai, is in the guise of a writer, and will be less emotionally intense. I left the country from what was then Bombay, 55 years ago, so it will be fascinating to return to my embarkation point, which I have not visited since.

Also read:Indian poets lag behind fiction writers, says Pulitzer winner Vijay Seshadri

Can you tell us a bit about your participation in Tata Literature Live!, The Mumbai LitFest?
I am participating in three sessions at the fest. I am also very eager to find out what is happening in Indian writing now.

While we have read that your influences range from the works of Walt Whitman to Elizabeth Bishop, among others, has any Indian poet influenced you?
I have been influenced by classical Indian texts, especially the Vedantic ones. But those are influences of thought, primarily, and feeling, secondarily. The people who influence a poet grab him early, and the poets I read early were all American and British. I came to Indian poetry when I was already formed as a writer. I have learned a lot from Indian prose writers, like RK Narayan and VS Naipaul (if he can be considered Indian). I have also been instructed by great recent scholars and thinkers such as KM Pannikar and Amartya Sen.

Also read: India-born poet wins 2014 Pulitzer Prize

Do you feel poetry has lost its sheen?
Poetry can never lose its sheen. It's inalienable to the human self. I have no understanding of how poetry is distributed in India, the extent to which it is celebrated and taught in schools. But the art is flourishing here, even though it might not be visible.

Your poems are mainly about human life. What fascinates you about the human existence?
I think my poems are narrative and dramatic. The subject matter is a given. Humans are fascinating because they provide the best stories. I suppose I could write about gods or angels (Irrespective of my beliefs) but I'd probably make them into humans, as all writers have done in history, because being human is what I know. I suppose I could describe nature. I certainly love and praise nature. But one can't really write stories about nature.

First Published: Oct 22, 2014 16:15 IST