cover image Wild Kingdom

Wild Kingdom

Vijay Seshadri. Graywolf Press, $14 (68pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-236-3

The poems in Seshadri's first collection are held together by a common thread of human displacement. What does it mean to be displaced? In ""The Refugee,"" it means resettling in an unknown land. In ""Little Treasury of Best-Loved Lines,"" it means alienation from one's own province: ""She lives alone in a condominium cluster,/ shingled in cedar, its courtyards/ defensible, its openings alarmed,/ built just recently on land/ where holsteins were once farmed."" The poems' locations move slowly from city to country--beginning with ""Made in the Tropics,"" in which residents of the Bronx gather in ""fur-trimmed vans"" to celebrate Jamaican Independence Day, and ending with the long final poem, ""Lifeline,"" an account of a driver who has crashed his truck in a forest. Seshadri shows remarkable stylistic range. He's as comfortable with the quick, lucid tongue of ""The Testimonies of Ramon Fernandez"" (""I know it's right/ to put the pedal to my appetite/ until I here the engine roar"") as he is with the somber tones of ""The Language War,"" in which the speaker says of an alienated friend: ""he won't answer my letters,/ His ink is frozen and he can't forgive."" In portrayals that fluidly embrace abstraction and detail, Seshadri practices a formal precision that is as easy with sonnets as with free verse. In a compassionate, perceptive spirit, Seshadri offers us works that belong among, the broadest, most intelligent new poetry of this decade. (Mar.)