3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri


I checked this book of poems out of the library because JNaz called my attention to this poet recently. It was published in 2013, and won the Pulitzer Prize.

There are, indeed, three sections in this book, with a single bonus poem following the third section, titled “Light Verse (Standard Time Begins)”: 1) 31 short poems, 2) a 13-page work of prose titled “Pacific Fishes of Canada” and 3) a long (16-page) and long-lined poem titled “Personal Essay.” I very much enjoyed all three sections–and “Light Verse.” It is possible to dip into any section, and into any poem in the first section of short poems. They stand alone.

You can read three of the short poems and listen to Seshadri read them by following this link: https://www.pw.org/content/3_sections_by_vijay_seshadri

I marked two other short poems to quote: From “New Media” (the final lines):

“It’s not the thing, there is no thing,/there’s no thing in itself,/there’s nothing but what’s said about the thing, there are no things but words//about the things/said over and over,/perching, grooming their wings,/on the subject lines.”

From “Bright Copper Kettles” (the beginning):

“Dead friends coming back to life, dead family,/speaking languages living and dead, the minds retentive/their five senses intact, their footprints like a butterfly’s,/mercy shining from their comprehensive faces–/this is one of my favorite things./I like it so much I sleep all the time.”

And from the middle of “Personal Essay,” what I take as a job description for a poet:

“…if your job has been, as mine has been, to hollow out rock,/ with a tenacity that surprises even you,/a little indentation, a dimple/(scraping and scraping with your inadequate devices)/a place to put your suction cups down, get a grip,/so you can spread at your other end/the filaments of your being, which will transmit the waves of energy swelling around you, billowing and subsiding–/storms of radiance, solar flares, fountains, typhoons,/blizzards of the infinitesimal particles shooting to China/(on the other side of the planet!),…”

Good stuff, eh? Thanks, JNaz.

13 comments on “3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri”

  1. Thanks for the link- I enjoyed all the poems there and your selections here. Thanks to you and JNaz for keeping us informed about Vijay Seshadri πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Teri, so grateful that you followed through and read this poet. The sections you have left with us, such a wonderful taste. Definitely need to follow your lead and find this book. Another for my “for later’ shelf. Following your link now…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well Teri and all, I have spent the last several mornings with this book, in dusky light while the house still sleeps – the best time to read poetry – and I am grateful that you followed through on that original poem, reminding me to do the same. I am totally wowed. I love the 3 sections, how they are shaped so differently yet contain a familiar voice. There is something about this work I can’t quite put my finger on, like he is forever taking the world apart and putting it back together again. In a new way, sometimes. And sometimes not at all, looking at its disparate parts and tracing new meanings and ideas among them. Like this, from Personal Essay –

    “Stare at a word in a book long enough and that word/slowly uncouples itself from what it means./The meaning backs away./The meaning is being evicted from/the structure of glyphs that it has rented./The meaning of the word is making/dejected, wounded gestures with its hands as it retreats/to the precipice of the incomprehensible, where it gives us/a tender look, then turns and jumps./Its survivors are dangling lines, circles, serifs, italic or roman, standard or bold.”

    And, also from Personal Essay –

    “A thing, an artifact wrapped in its artifactuality,/an anthology of arbitrary gestures made by space – / which itself is active not passive, itself something and not nothing – /a congeries of angles and broken lines,/maybe not nothing but/not the image of anything but the image of/nothing, a face astonished by itself in the mirror…”

    Would also like to share a bit from the middle section, Pacific Fishes of Canada, because it really hummed for me. This is the long prose piece and this quoted part falls near the beginning –

    “On summer nights, when the stiff wind from the northwest and the choppy, unnerving exasperating seas that came with it had died down with the setting sun, the salmon fleet curled up on the long pillows of the Pacific swell, waiting for the morning bite. The one- or two-man crews of the little trollers shut down their engines, leaving just their mast lights, and maybe a light on the bow, burning as a precaution to boats that might be navigating in the darkness……to step out of the cabin and counterbalance against the Pacific on the chill wooden deck and drink in the light offshore wind, with its fugitive odor of fir trees, and listen to the ocean slapping against the hull and hear the creaking and muffled groaning of the sleeping vessel cradled in the long rhythmic risers (corkscrewing slightly and slowly turning the boat around and around),…..to look up at the stars and a crescent moon above the inanimate mist and then look down to see the rising and and falling, sharpening and blurring mast lights of the fleet scattered over twenty square miles to the horizon…”

    Maybe because my brother was a fisherman. Maybe because several times, when I was younger, I took fishing boats from Seattle, up the inside passage and into southeast Alaska, maybe because I have worked at sea…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I am really annoyed by recently being unable to “like” posts that I most often really “love” more than “like.” Grrr…a kind of personal denial of service attack. I am easily annoyed these days, it seems.

    Anyway, thank you, Julie, for your beautiful writing about this book. You have managed to do justice to Pacific Fishes of Canada, which I struggled with. It is so human. I think of the vivid descriptions of incapacitating seasickness, rough ocean that makes him so ill that eventually he can’t find the strength or will to get up after having been thrown out of his bed (such as it is) over and over & just lies there in his sick. Eww. It’s awful but funny, too, if it hasn’t happened to you.

    Oh, and the expansive list of fishes.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. : ) I am glad I could bring some goodness to Pacific Fishes for you.

      As to “being unable to ‘like’ posts” I have the same problem if I navigate to the post through an email link. If I go straight from the blog it seems to work.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m with JNaz– sometimes I can’t ‘like’ comments from an email but if I come here, it works ok. And only happens sometimes– no clue what’s up w that!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s