That Was Now, This Is Then

Graywolf. Oct. 2020. 88p. ISBN 9781644450369. $24.
This fourth collection by Pulitzer-winner Seshadri (for 2014’s 3 Sections) finds the poet haunted by “the ghost we call meaning.” It’s a candid recognition of the psychic and spiritual trauma these disruptive times have wrought, particularly “the violence done to the mind by the weaponized/ word or image.” Chief among the disorienting effects is a troubling desensitization: “all this hostility from every quarter bothers me/ much less than it should. Why the disconnect? I can’t figure it out.” But while the public sphere is “busy making gossip out of experience” and undermining any sense of shared reality, Seshadri does his best to draw coherence from chaos. In “To the Reader,” the final poem in the book, he reaches out to us in a gesture of magical solidarity: “We correspond 1 to 1, and there is a grandeur in this.”
VERDICT In an engaging, confiding tone that embraces both wit and compassion, Seshadri enlists poetry, what he calls “spooky action at a distance,” to assure us that despite the historical moment’s forced isolation and heightened sociopolitical stress, we need not feel we’re alone.
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