February 16, 2004

For Reetika and Jehan, and Yusef Too

VIA George, this intense story on Reetika Vazirani, Indian American poet who committed suicide last year (shortly after knifing her 2-year-old son to death)

The Failing Light: Why did a rising young poet plunge into despair, taking her own life and the life of her 2-year-old son?

[Reetika Vazirani] was a genius at friendship: gracious and open (yet discreet), people say. You felt, after talking to her for an hour or two, that you'd known her half your life. You'd get little notes and know she was thinking of you, even if you hadn't spoken for six months. She once took leftover fabric from a shortened silk skirt and made scarves for her junior faculty (i.e., insolvent) friends. "Very giving, very effervescent, extremely sweet," says poet Garrett Hongo, who brought her to the University of Oregon to teach one fall. "It was not hard to be her friend."

She could be a hustler, too, ambitious on behalf of her career. Poetry is anything but an ethereal profession whose practitioners can rely on their muses. Getting attention requires relentless networking, a résumé full of publications and awards. "Create a buzz around yourself," Reetika advised a poet friend. "That's what I did."

Jeet Thayil, a New York poetry editor, watched with admiration as Reetika e-mailed notices of upcoming readings, reviews of her book, even order forms to a long list of friends and acquaintances, with exhortations to pass the word. "If she'd held a class entitled 'How to Promote Your Poetry,' I'd have paid to attend," Thayil says.

The above jumped out at me, as did the audio excerpts, some of her other work and a bio in the 5-page article.

Posted by ronn at February 16, 2004 06:24 PM