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Reetika Vazirani
Born 1962
Died July 16, 2003
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Occupation Author
Genres Poetry
Notable work(s) White Elephants, World Hotel

Reetika Vazirani (1962-2003) was an award-winning American poet and educator. On July 16, 2003, Vazirani was housesitting in the Chevy Chase, Maryland[1] home of novelist Howard Norman and his wife, the poet, Jane Shore.[2] There, Vazirani took the life of her two-year-old son, Jehan, and then her own.



She was born in India in 1962, came to the US 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 her partner, poet Yusef Komunyakaa, who was Jehan's father.[1] 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, at the time she committed her murder/suicide.


She was a recipient of a Discovery/The Nation Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Poets & Writers Exchange Program Award, fellowships from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers conferences, the Glenna Luschei/Prairie Schooner Award for her essay, "The Art of Breathing," included in the anthology How We Live our Yoga (Beacon 2001). She also had a poem in The Best American Poetry 2000.


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 her poems translated into Italian.

She contributed a poem, Mouth-Organs and Drums, to a "Poets Against War" anthology.

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


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