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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.

Independence

Reetika Vazirani, 1962 - 2003

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.


Sorry, the British leaving? we beg.
"This is hardly a joke or a quiz --
sit up and stay alert," he spits.
"It is about the trains and ships
you love and city names.  As for me,
I'm old, I'll end in a library,
I began in trade."  But you must stay,
we tell him.  He lived here as we have lived


but longer.  He says he was alive
in Calcutta in 1890.  He didn't have
a rich father.  A third son, he came with
the Tea Company:  we saw a statement
in his office. The company built
the railroads to take the tea "home
to England" so that Darjeeling and Assam
could be sipped by everyone, us and them.


They sold our southern neighbor Ceylon,
silk, pepper, diamonds, cotton.
We make a trade of course.  In England
there is only wool and salt and
snobs and foggy weather, Shakespeare.

This poem originally appeared in the Paris Review. © 2000 by Reetika Vazirani. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

This poem originally appeared in the Paris Review. © 2000 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
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
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