– Suman Chhabra
Eye on India’s 2016 Festival kicks off with our Words on Water In Conversation Series. Words on Water brings cultures together through conversations between American and Indian writers, scholars and leaders. The series creates an inclusive, thought-provoking environment through which greater understanding emerges.
Four fantastic authors, Vijay Seshadri, Anuradha Roy, Srikanth Reddy and Guillermo Rodriquez, lead this year’s readings and discussions over three events.
Vijay Seshadri was born in Bangalore, India in 1954 and moved to the U.S. at age five. He is the author of Wild Kingdom (1996, Graywolf Press), The Long Meadow (2003, Graywolf Press), winner of the James Laughlin Prize of the Academy of American Poets, and 3 Sections (2013, Graywolf Press), winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Seshadri has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. The author shared his poem, The Long Meadow, with Eye on India’s supporters.
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 kingdom 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 raintrees
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 vicious 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.
© 2004, Vijay Seshadri
From: The Long Meadow, Graywolf Press
Vijay Seshadri Poetry Reading
Vijay Seshadri will read from his Pulitzer Prize winning book, 3 Sections and be joined in conversation with Matthew Shenoda, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Columbia College.
Thursday, September 15th at 7pm
61 W. Superior St.
Anuradha Roy is the author of 3 novels including An Atlas of Impossible Longing (2008, Free Press) and The Folded Earth (2011, Free Press) which won the Economist Crossword Prize. Her latest book, Sleeping on Jupiter (2015, Graywolf Press), was nominated for the Man Booker Prize and won the DSC Prize South Asian Literature in 2016. Her work has been widely translated. Roy is the co-founder of Permanent Black, an independent press. She lives in Ranikhet, India.
Srikanth Reddy is the author of two books of poetry—Facts for Visitors (2004, University of California Press), and Voyager (2011, University of California Press), as well as a book of criticism, Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry (2012, Oxford University Press). He has received fellowships and awards from the Asian American Writer’s Workshop, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Creative Capital Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and the Mellon Foundation. Reddy graduated from the Iowa Writers Workshop and the doctoral program in English at Harvard University. He is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Chicago.
3 Authors Panel Discussion
Vijay Seshadri and Anuradha Roy will discuss their recent works with Srikanth Reddy.
Saturday, September 17th 11am-2pm
Cindy Pritzker Auditorium
Harold Washington Library
400 S. State St.
Guillermo Rodriguez is a writer and cultural activist. He is the founding director of Casa de la India, a pioneering cultural centre in Spain, which has become a model for India’s cultural diplomacy abroad. A passionate traveller, he lived in India in the 1990s and specialized in modern Indian poetry in English, obtaining a PhD in English from the University of Kerala and the University of Valladolid. He publishes regularly critical essays on Indian literature and culture and is the author of When Mirrors Are Windows: A View of A.K. Ramanujan`s Poetics (2016, Oxford University Press).
The Indian writer and scholar A.K. Ramanujan (1929-1993) is the focus of Rodriguez’s study. Ramanujan wrote both in English and in numerous Indian languages: Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit. He had a connection with Chicago and taught at the University of Chicago, where he developed the South Asian Studies department.
Mirrors and Windows: A View of A.K. Ramanujan’s Poetics
Author Guillermo Rodriquez will have a conversation with Jason Grunebaum, Senior Lecturer in Hindi at the University of Chicago, about the work of A.K. Ramanujan.
Monday, September 26th at 6:30pm
Reva and David Logan Center for the Performing Arts
University of Chicago
5801 S. Ellis Ave
Each Words on Water event will be rich with literature and lively discussions. We invite you to join the conversation on contemporary Indian and American intersecting writing.