Vijay Seshadri on his poem “The Descent of Man” from his Pulitzer Prize winning book 3 Sections.
"The Descent of Man"
My failure to evolve has been causing me a lot of grief lately.
I can’t walk on my knuckles through the acres of shattered glass
in the streets.
I get lost in the arcades. My feet stink at the soirees.
The hills have been bulldozed from whence cameth my help.
The halfway houses where I met my kind dreaming of flickering lights
in the woods
are shuttered I don’t know why.
"Try," say the good people who bring me my food,
"to make your secret anguish your secret weapon.
Otherwise, your immortality will be
an exhibit in a vitrine at the local museum, a picture in a book.”
But I can’t get the hang of it. The heavy instructions fall from my hands.
It takes so long for the human to become a human!
He affrights civilizations with his cry. At his approach,
the mountains retreat. A great wind crashes the garden party.
Manipulate singly neither his consummation nor his despair
but the two together like curettes
and peel back the pitch-black integuments
to discover the penciled-in figure on the painted-over mural of time,
sitting on the sketch of a boulder below
his aching sunrise, his moody, disappointed sunset.
* * *
I wrote “The Descent of Man” after a long layoff from writing—or, to be more accurate, from trying to write, which is largely what I do. Poems written after a long layoff in my case usually turn out baroque, or more baroque than ones that are the result of working habitually. Read More.
Come celebrate National Poetry Month with us! On Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27 we’ll be partnering with Poetry Society of America to bring an amazing and FREE poetry weekend. Poetry in Motion Springfest, inspired by the New York State Poet Laureate Marie Howe, will be held in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal from 11AM to 6PM on both days and will feature a variety of poets, artists, music and interactive poetry activities. More information about all the events (including a young poet workshop, ages 6+) is found here. Please join us!
Image artwork: Amy Cheng, Rediscovery (detail), 2012.
Here they are. The new chapbook covers. The chapbooks launch tomorrow:
Wednesday, Apr 2, 7:00pm / New York, NY
2014 PSA CHAPBOOK FELLOWSHIP READING
Come celebrate the 11th Anniversary of the PSA Chapbook Fellowship with readings by 2014 Chapbook Fellows Xavier Cavazos, MRB Chelko, Tyler Flynn Dorholt, and Alicia Salvadeo, alongside three of this year’s poet-judges Nick Flynn, and John Yau, and poets Bob Holman and David Rivard.
The Graduate Center, CUNY
Elebash Recital Hall
365 Fifth Avenue
Photographs of William Carlos Williams from the William Carlos Williams Papers at the Yale Library.
Born March 18, 1842: Stéphane Mallarmé.
New Directions cover designed by Alvin Lustig