Q & A: Vijay Seshadri

Who is the “you” addressed in the poem?

The “you” is and is not distinct from the speaker. I began with a specific moral situation, that of someone who has abandoned or repressed complex, ambivalent, wayward, and vulnerable aspects of himself because they compromise his will somehow, and such a person is the one addressed initially. That situation didn’t hold my interest, though (it’s an old story, and not particularly edifying, and it seemed a little too easy), and so it changes as the poem develops, especially as it begins to delve into narratology. The poem slowly entangles its speaker. By the end the only way I can understand it is as occurring in the theater of the mind.  


Can you tell us more about the barking-dog tale?

When I was a child, tv shows had dogs as heroes—Rin Tin Tin, Lassie. Dogs, not industrialists moonlighting in gizmo suits, were our superheroes. And they were always saving drowning people. 


Where do you imagine the poem, with its freeway meridian, overpass, and public library, taking place?

New Jersey. One of those towns on the turnpike just below New York City—Rahway, maybe. I had a distinct image of the turnpike, and a sense that New York was close, just over the horizon.


This poem originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2010

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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