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Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz is named a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry! Learn more.

That Was Now, This Is Then

Vijay Seshadri

I wanted to curl up
in the comfortable cosmic melancholy of my past,
in the sadness of my past being passed.
I wanted to tour the museum of my antiquities
and look at the sarcophagi there.
I wanted to wallow like a water buffalo in the cool,
sagacious mud of my past,
so I wrote you and said I’d be in town and could we meet.

—from “Visiting San Francisco”

No one blends ironic intelligence, emotional frankness, radical self-awareness, and complex humor the way Vijay Seshadri does. In this, his fourth collection, he affirms his place as one of America’s greatest living poets. That Was Now, This Is Then takes on the planar paradoxes of time and space, destabilizing highly tuned lyrics and elegies with dizzying turns in poems of unrequitable longing, of longing for longing, of longing to be found, of grief. In these poems, Seshadri’s speaker becomes the subject, the reader becomes the writer, and the multiplying refracted narratives yield an “anguish so pure it almost / feels like joy.”


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The brilliant new collection from Vijay Seshadri, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning 3 Sections


About the Author

Vijay  Seshadri
Credit: Lisa Pines

Vijay Seshadri was born in Bangalore, India, and came to America as a small child. He is the author of three collections of poems: 3 Sections, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; The Long Meadow, winner of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets; and Wild Kingdom. He is currently the Myers Professor of Writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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  • “[Vijay Seshadri’s] intellectually nimble new collection . . . reads like a warning to readers in ways real and emotional. . . . It has such power and unease, you may leave it feeling less alone.”—Lit Hub
  • “These poems movingly capture the feeling of being suspended in a moment. . . . Fans of Seshadri will find the thoughtfulness, humor, and lyric precision they have come to expect from the poet.”Publishers Weekly
  • “Seshadri is known for elaborate lines and evocative images, and he has built a career around the unexpected turns his lyrics often take. This new collection is no exception, conjuring small moments of intense personal intimacy, as well as broad snapshots of surprising expanses.”Booklist
  • “Vijay Seshadri conjures the poems in That Was Now, This Is Then out of absence, fashions language from the vast and wild silences surrounding our living. Seshadri’s poetry presses into and recedes from our gaze all in the same gesture. . . . Inconceivably, Seshadri’s best yet.”—Kaveh Akbar
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