Reetika Vazirani

9 Aug 1962
16 Jul 2003
Offer Flowers
Light a Candle
Pray for the soul
Seek Blessings

Reetika Gina Vazirani (August 9, 1962 – July 16, 2003)was an American poet and educator.

She was born in Patiala, India in 1962, came to the USA with her family in 1968. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1984, she received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to travel to India, Thailand, Japan, and China. She also received an M.F.A. from the University of Virginia as a Hoyns Fellow.

She lived in Trenton, New Jersey with her son Jehan, near the poet Yusef Komunyakaa, who was her partner and Jehan’s father.There she taught creative writing as a visiting faculty member at The College of New Jersey. At the time of her death, Vazirani was Writer-in-Residence at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, with the intent of joining the English department at Emory University.

On July 16, 2003, Vazirani was housesitting in the Chevy Chase, Maryland home of novelist Howard Norman and his wife, the poet, Jane Shore. There, Vazirani took the life of her two-year-old son, Jehan, by slashing his wrist, and then her own.

She was the author of two poetry collections, White Elephants, winner of the 1995 Barnard New Women Poets Prize, and World Hotel (Copper Canyon Press, 2002),winner of the 2003 Anisfield-Wolf book award. She was a contributing and advisory editor for Shenandoah, a book review editor for Callaloo, and a senior poetry editor for Catamaran, a journal of South Asian literature. She translated poetry from Urdu and had some of her poems translated into Italian.

Her poem, “Mouth-Organs and Drums,” was published in the anthology Poets Against the War (Nation Books, 2003) anthology.

Vazirani’s final collection of poetry, Radha Says was published in the fall of 2009 by Drunken Boat Media, edited by Leslie McGrath and Ravi Shankar.

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