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About this poet

Recipient of a 2003 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for her second book, World Hotel (Copper Canyon, 2002), and a Barnard New Women Poets Prize for White Elephants (1996), Reetika Vazirani was educated at Wellesley College and received her MFA from the University of Virginia where she was a Hoyns Fellow.

She was a recipient of a "Discovery"/The Nation Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Poets & Writers Exchange Program Award, and the Glenna Luschei/Prairie Schooner Award for her essay, "The Art of Breathing," which appears in the anthology How We Live our Yoga (Beacon, 2001). She was a Contributing and Advisory Editor for Shenandoah and was the guest poetry editor of two issues. She was a Book Review Editor for Callaloo and a Senior Poetry Editor of Catamaran, a journal featuring work by artists from South Asia.

Born in India on August 9, 1962 and raised in Maryland, she had served as writer-in-residence at The College of William and Mary and part of the core faculty of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshops. Reetika Vazirani died on July 16, 2003.

Daughter-Mother-Maya-Seeta

Reetika Vazirani, 1962 - 2003
To replay errors
the revolving door of days
Now it's over
There's no one point thank god in the turning world 
I was always moving
tired too but laughing
To be a widow is an old
freedom I have known
vidua paradisea    a bird
Singly I flew
and happiness was my giraffe 
in the face of Africa
me among daughters
and my son at work
me pregnant with them
taking in the glamour days
town and country mirabella elle vogue
cosmopolitan    We have made this world
brown  these beautiful women
laughing and crying till we cleared the dining table
In hotels men asked my girls to fetch them towels
In restaurants they asked us for bread
Today I'm a civil servant on the Hill

From the Mall what colorful sarongs
my children bring to drape my ankles
the gifts we give
to Mina a necklace of Mikimoto pearls
Tara a Paloma purse for cosmetics
Lata a pair of lime shoes for the miles
Devi gives me her eclectic lit eyes
the glamour of our wilder regions
Bombay weavers on the twenty-four hour looms
shocking pink is the navy of India

Listen I am listening
my mind is a trip
I flew over oceans
I flew in the face of skies
orienting my loss of caste
my dark complexion
the folly of envy
wishing all my life to be fair
My jealous god leaves
Hello son this is your mother
Daughters take these maroon saris 
these maroon bras
I am proud to have borne you
When you gather around me
newness comes into the world

First published in Prairie Schooner, Winter 1998. Reprinted in The 2000 Pushcart Prize Anthology XXIV and The New American Poets, a Bread Loaf Anthology, 2000 (ed. Michael Collier). Copyright © 1998 by Reetika Vazirani. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

First published in Prairie Schooner, Winter 1998. Reprinted in The 2000 Pushcart Prize Anthology XXIV and The New American Poets, a Bread Loaf Anthology, 2000 (ed. Michael Collier). Copyright © 1998 by Reetika Vazirani. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Reetika Vazirani

Reetika Vazirani

Born in India in 1962 and raised in Maryland, poet Reetika Vazirani received the 2003 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for her book, World Hotel

by this poet

poem

New Delhi, 1965

I took the train from Patiala,
left the girls with Ayah, and lied,
I'm with Faye and Daisy.
       Had to say what he'd approve of.
Go then, Kiran said, crushing large rupees in my hand.

Have I been here a week?
I've slept so long I can't remember
who was with me last night in bed,
that
poem

New Delhi, 1967

                1.
We kept war in the kitchen.
A set of ten bone china plates, now eight.
As if a perfumed guest stole her riches . . .


The next day she wanted to leave at noon.
I said, be back by four, I'm paying you.
She sat by the door,   
she put out her hand,  
her knuckles knocked
poem

Mussoorie, Uttar Pradesh, India, l947

When I am nine, the British quit
India.  Headmaster says, "The Great
Mutiny started it."  We repeat,
The Great Mutiny of 1857
in our booming voices.  Even
Akbar was Great, even Catherine,
Great!  We titter over History.  His back
turns: we see his pink spotty neck.