The Long Meadow

Overview

Now in paperback, the highly praised second collection by Vijay Seshadri, winner of the 2003 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets

We hold it against you that you survived.

People better than you are dead,

but you still punch the clock.

Your body has wizened but has not bled

?from ?Survivor?

...
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Overview

Now in paperback, the highly praised second collection by Vijay Seshadri, winner of the 2003 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets

We hold it against you that you survived.

People better than you are dead,

but you still punch the clock.

Your body has wizened but has not bled

—from “Survivor”

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Grave and witty, classical and contemporary, The Long Meadow is a casually brilliant collection of poems. Seshadri is a writer of subtle, elastic and unblinking intelligence. Profound and delightful, The Long Meadow well deserves the high distinction bestowed upon it by the James Laughlin Award.” —Campbell McGrath, citation for the James Laughlin Award

“This is a strong, almost reckless voice turning dark experience into an unrelenting sense of possibility. From the rhyming stanzas to a long prose meditation, the power of casual declamation holds sway.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“[Seshadri’s] ability to see where the fantastic and the realistic mingle, ‘where matter becomes number and number matter,’ and to draw casually convincing distinctions gives this book its understated but gently persuasive power.” —The New York Times Book Review

The New Yorker
Seshadri’s second collection is gracefully contemporary—“Superman Agonistes” is the title of one poem—and effortlessly ranges from Russian Church history to Rocky and Bullwinkle. The book centers on a short prose essay about the obsession of his father, an Indian immigrant, with the American Civil War. A scientist, his father is skeptical of “hidden and untenable assumptions” and dismissive of his poet son’s suggestion of parallels with the fratricidal war in the Mahabharata—“The Mahabharata is just a story.” Now a father himself, Seshadri wonders what wisdom he has to impart to his own son and wittily dissects “The Three Little Pigs.” He reflects, “The Christians say / the story of the universe is the story of a boy and his dad. / They are absolutely right.”
Publishers Weekly
Following the emotional subtlety and lyrical intensity of his widely-acclaimed debut, Wild Kingdom, Seshadri's new work engages sentimental and grandiose forms of fable and popular characterization. In several poems imbued with nursery rhyme, fantasy, fairy tale and cartoon, Seshadri takes on well-worn cultural icons: the Wicked Witch, the Three Little Pigs and Superman, to name a few. The poems generally lack the kind of fresh perspective found, say, in Anne Sexton's retellings of fairy tales. Here, Superman is bound by simple, inescapable duty (not to mention an ironclad rhyme scheme): "I can't stay away./ I have to fly down/ to watch them pray,// to watch them couple,/ to watch them fight,/ exposing myself/ to their kryptonite." Elsewhere, Seshadri relies on gimmicky forms (the "Interview," the "Lecture") to structure voice-driven poems: "Moving on to the next slide, / we can see, twisted and deliberately coarsened as it is,/ the exact same theme" An extended section of prose memoir switches gears, using his father's obsession with the Civil War ( and the family's long road trips to famous battle sites) to evoke the complexities of the immigrant experience (Seshadri's own family came from Bangalore to the Midwest) as well as the intricacies of family relations. Particularly poignant is the son's fierce protectiveness of the father: "The passage to America had, happily for him, thrown him free, but it had also stripped him down to his naked soul. Almost to this day, like the sons of Noah, I have longed to walk backward and cover up the nakedness, the drunkenness of his intellectual obsessions, his naked, unheard-of obsessions" This character is the most real of the book. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555974244
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 64
  • Product dimensions: 7.04 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Vijay Seshadri is the author of Wild Kingdom. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Best American Poetry. Born in India, he lives in India and Brooklyn, New York.

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Table of Contents

Immediate city 3
Visiting Russia 4
Inventory 7
Interview 8
Witch elegy 10
Wolf soup 12
Very simple and like a song 14
Lecture 16
North of Manhattan 18
North 23
Fractured fairytale 24
Superman agonistes 25
Aphasia 26
The scholar 27
Anima 28
Thelma 29
Tree 30
Ailanthus 31
Survivor 33
The day of the sun 34
The nature of the chemical bond 37
The disappearances 49
Baby baby 51
The painted things 53
A fable 54
The long meadow 57
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First Chapter

The Long Meadow


By Vijay Seshadri

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2004 Vijay Seshadri
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-55597-400-7


Chapter One

Survivor We hold it against you that you survived. People better than you are dead, but you still punch the clock. Your body has wizened but has not bled its substance out on the killing floor or flatlined in intensive care or vanished after school or stepped off the ledge in despair. Of all those your started with, only you are still around; only you have not been listed with the defeated and the drowned. So how could you ever win our respect?- you, who had the sense to duck, you, with your strength almost intact and all your good luck. The Disappearances "Where was it one first heard of the truth?" On a day like any other day, like "yesterday or centuries before," in a town with the one remembered street, shaded by the buckeye and the sycamore-the street long and true as a theorem, the day like yesterday or the day before, the street you walked down centuries before- the story the same as the others flooding in from the cardinal points is turning to take a good look at you. Every creature, intelligent or not, has disappeared- the humans, phosphorescent, the duplicating pets, the guppies and spaniels, the Woolworth's turtle that cost forty-nine cents (with the soiled price tag half peeled on its shell)- but, from the look of things, it only just happened. The wheels of the upside-down tricycle are spinning. The swings are empty but swinging. And the shadow is still there, and there is the object that made it, riding the proximate atmosphere, oblong and illustrious above the dispeopled bedroom community, venting the memories of those it took, their corrosive human element. This is what you have to walk through to escape, transparent but alive as coal dust. This is what you have to hack through, bamboo-tough and thickly clustered. The myths are somewhere else, but here are the meanings, and you have to breathe them in until they burn your throat and peck at your brain with their intoxicated teeth. This is you as seen by them, from the corner of an eye (was that the way you were always seen?). This is you when the President died (the day is brilliant and cold). This is you poking a ground-wasps' nest. This is you at the doorway unobserved, while your aunts and uncles keen over the body. This is you first river, your first planetarium, your first Popsicle. The cold and brilliant day in six-color prints- but the people on the screen are black and white. Your friend's mother is saying, Hush, children! Don't you understand history is being made? You do, and you still do. Made and made again. This is you as seen by them, and them as seen by you, and you as seen by you, in five dimensions, in seven, in three again, then two, then reduced to a dimensionless point in a universe where the only constant is the speed of light. This is you at the speed of light. The Long Meadow Near the end of one of the old poems, the son of righteousness, the source of virtue and civility, on whose back the kingdome 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, and on the other side of the wood the sea is shallow, warm, endless. In and around it, there is no threat of life- so little is the atmosphere charged with possibility that he might as well be wading through a flooded basement. he wades for what seems like forever, and never stops to rest in the shade of the metal rain trees springing out of the water at fixed intervals. Time, though endless, is also short, so he wades on, until he walks out of the sea and into the mountains, where he burns on the windward slopes and freezes in the valleys. After unendurable struggles, he finally arrives at the celestial realm. The god waits there for him. The god invites him to enter. But, looking through the glowing portal, he sees on that happy plain not those he thinks wait eagerly for him- his beloved, his brothers, his companions in war and exile, all long since dead and gone- but, sitting pretty and enjoying the gorgeous sunset, his cousin and bitter enemy, the cause of that war, that exile, whose arrogance and viscous indolence plunged the world into grief. The god informs him that, yes, those he loved have been carried down the river of fire. Their thirst for justice offended the cosmic powers, who are jealous of justice. in their place in the celestial realm, called Alaukika in the ancient texts, the breaker of faith is now glorified. He, at least, acted in keeping with his nature. Who has not felt a little of the despair the son of righteousness now feels, staring wildly around him? The god watches, not without compassion and a certain wonder. This is the final illusion, the one to which all the others lead. he has to pierce through it himself, without divine assistance. He will take a long time about it, with only his dog to keep him company, the mongrel dog, celebrated down the millennia, who has waded with him, shivered and burned with him, and never abandoned him to his loneliness. That dog bears a slight resemblance to my dog, a skinny, restless, needy, overprotective mutt, who was rescued from a Crack house by Suzanne. On weekends, and when I can shake free during the week, I take her to the Long Meadow, in Prospect Park, where dogs are allowed off the leash in the early morning. She's gray-muzzled and old now, but you can't tell that by the way she runs.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Long Meadow by Vijay Seshadri Copyright © 2004 by Vijay Seshadri. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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