Vijay Seshadri is a Brooklyn-based poet, essayist, literary critic and recent winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for his compelling collection of poems, “3 Sections.” The collection examines the human consciousness from birth to dementia in a voice that weaves in and out of humor, gloom, compassion and ruthlessness.
Seshadri has published four books, all of which are in poetry, but currently teaches non-fiction at Sarah Lawrence College at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
Metro: If you’re a poet, why teach non-fiction?
When I first started at Sarah Lawrence [13 years ago], I taught poetry. But in 2008, they asked me to [exclusively] teach non-fiction because I was a non-fiction editor at the New Yorker so it made sense. They thought that someone who edits non-fiction could probably teach the subject better than someone who just writes nonfiction.
When you wrote “3 Sections,” did you think "God, if this doesn’t win the Pulitzer, I don’t know what will?"
I mean, when it was done, I thought it was a great book. But I certainly didn’t think I was going to win the Pulitzer.
Did you apply for the Pulitzer or did someone nominate you? How does that work?
Well you don’t exactly apply. You can send your book in for consideration, but usually a publisher will send it in if they think it’s worth considering and there’s a Pulitzer committee who filters through the submissions and ultimately they decide. So, yeah, my publisher sent it in and then told me.
Has your life changed in any drastic way since winning?
For the first two hours, my phone was blowing up with people congratulating me so that was fun, but life really hasn’t changed. Sure; I get invited to certain events and people want to do interviews, but I’m not famous. I’m not hanging out with Angelina Jolie. I mean they just had the Met Gala in New York and I wasn’t there. I was reading about it in the paper and I saw Beyonce and Jay-Z and I was thinking, "Why wasn’t I there?"
You mean you didn’t get voted Best Dressed at the Met?
No. I didn’t even get an invite.
What do you get as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, besides the title?
Well, I got a really nice certificate and I got $10,000 so that was nice, but it’s really more about the prestige.