Vijay Seshadri is an American poet, essayist, and literary critic. He is the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Vijay Seshadri was born on Saturday, 13 February 1954 (age 69 years; as of 2023) in Bangalore, India. His zodiac sign is Aquarius. At age 5, he moved to Columbus, Ohio, with his family. His parents wanted him to become a mathematician. He started studying mathematics in college before switching to philosophy and pursued a Bachelor of Arts at Oberlin College and later pursued an MFA at Columbia University. He attended a doctoral program for Middle Eastern studies which took him to Pakistan to study Urdu and Persian, where he was supposed to stay for a year, but he never finished his doctorate and returned to the United States within four months. During his time in Pakistan, he realised he wanted to be a poet, not a scholar.
Hair Colour: Grey
Eye Colour: Black
Vijay Seshadri belongs to a Tamil-Kannada-speaking Indian migrated family in the United States.
Parents & Siblings
Vijay’s father taught at Ohio State University.
Wife & Children
His wife, Suzanne Khuri, is a theatre artist and a learning specialist for mildly disabled and autistic children. They have a son, Nicholas.
Vijay is an atheist. In an interview, he talked about his religion and claimed that he was not raised as per the norms of a particular religion. He said,
I was raised by a scientist. My father was a chemist. I mean, I was raised by people who had achieved a purity that went beyond religion. If I were religious, I would probably embrace something that is essentially pantheism, but has strong Christian elements to it. Because I’ve grown up in a Christian context for so long, it’s so natural to me to frame narrative in that way. But there is no religion that actually is like that.” Open Magazine
Vijay started writing poetry when he was 16 and started working on his debut novel when he turned 20. While working on the novel, he stopped writing poetry. After his debut novel was released, it did not gain much popularity and according to Vijay, the failure of his book led him back to poetry. He published his first poem in 1985 in The Threepenny Review. He published his first book of poems six years later, in 1996, while working as a copy editor at The New Yorker when he was 42. He first earned recognition when his poem “The Disappearances” made the back page of The New Yorker. “The Disappearances” is themed around Seshadri’s take on John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The New Yorker’s poetry editor, Alice Quinn, while praising the poem, said,
summoned up, with acute poignance, a typical American household and scene…The combination of epic sweep (including the quoted allusion to one of Emily Dickinson’s Civil War masterpieces, from 1862) and piercing, evocative detail is characteristic of the contribution Seshadri has made to the American canon.”
Vijay has written many poems including Wild Kingdom (1996), That Was Now, this is Then (2020), The Long Meadow, and The Disappearances. After working as the editor of The New York Times for 7 years, Vijay left the job and started working as a professor at the Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught courses on ‘Non-Fiction Writing,’ ‘Form and Feeling in Nonfiction Prose,’ ‘Rational and Irrational Narrative,’ and ‘Narrative Persuasion.’
Seshadari’s poems including “Rereading” (2012), “Visiting Paris” (2010), and “Thought Problem” (2009) have been published in The New York Times. He’s the first poetry editor of South-Asian origin at Paris Review. He received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the NEA, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Vijay Seshadri has attended many literary events including the Jaipur Literature Festival and Tata Literature Festival in Mumbai.
After he completed college, Vijay was inspired by the counterculture happening in America and became a part of it. In 1974, he drove a truck for a wholesale book company in Oakland, which supplied all the college bookstores in the Bay Area, in the Peninsula, and into the Valley. He did this job for a whole year and later decided to hitchhike to the San Francisco Bay area, where he stayed until 1977, worked as a bicycle messenger, and started a floor-finishing business. In 1977, he moved to Newport and worked in the fishing industry. He stayed there for 5 years, and during that time he wrote a novel. In 1982, he moved to New York to become a writer. The New York Times
Awards & Honors
- In 2014, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry in 3 Sections.
- The James Laughlin Prize of the Academy of American Poets for his poem The Long Meadow (2003).
- In 2014, he won the Paris Review’s Bernard F. Conners Long Poem Prize.
- In 2004, he received the Guggenheim Fellowship.
- Writer: John Ashbery
- Sport: Football
- Poet: T. S. Eliot
- At the age of 16, he skipped two grades, and this was the time he started writing poetry.
- In an interview, talking about writing poetry, Vijay said,
Everyone can write poems. Everyone has poetic feelings. It’s a romantic notion, isn’t it? And what is romantic is also revolutionary.”
- In an interview, Seshadri talked about the impact of Indian mythology and stories on his writings and said,
What reading Indian mythology gave me was a taste for the imaginative and the fantastic. Indian stories are so imaginative, so wild. Like the stories from the Bhagavata Purana. I’ve always had an attraction for the imaginative, even among writers. like Flaubert’s God, Eliot is everywhere present in his work but nowhere apparent.”