Vijay Seshadri opens his poem “Memoir” by paraphrasing George Orwell, writing that “no one ever writes the real story of their life. The real story of a life is the story of its humiliations.”
In an age of memoir, Seshadri (pronounced shay-SHAD-ree), who was born in Bangalore, India, was named the 2014 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his collection “3 Sections,” which considers topics from the everyday to the apocalyptic and everywhere in between. He recently sat down with Jeffrey Brown to discuss his own story and what he’s attempting to do with his poetry.
Watch the video to hear Seshadri read the rest of his poem. Stay tuned for Seshadri’s conversation with Jeffrey Brown.
Orwell says somewhere that no one ever writes the real story of their life.
The real story of a life is the story of its humiliations.
If I wrote that story now —
radioactive to the end of time —
people, I swear, your eyes would fall out, you couldn’t peel
the gloves fast enough
from your hands scorched by the firestorms of that shame.
Your poor hands. Your poor eyes
to see me weeping in my room
or boring the tall blonde to death.
Once I accused the innocent.
Once I bowed and prayed to the guilty.
I still wince at what I once said to the devastated widow.
And one October afternoon, under a locust tree
whose blackened pods were falling and making
illuminating patterns on the pathway,
I was seized by joy,
and someone saw me there,
and that was the worst of all,
lacerating and unforgettable.