Arisa White writes ‘Post Pardon’ based on poet Reetika Vazirani’s life and death.
I was living in California the first time I heard about poet Reetika Vazirani. I mention where I was living because this woman I did not know is one of my strongest memories of living in a State/place I grew to love despite the few months I was able to call California home. The reason which I first heard about Vazirani was less than stellar. She had committed suicide and, what seemed, impossibly, even worse, she had also killed her two year old son. My elder son was, at the time, two and a half years old, and, don’t we all suffer dark nights, and yet, we fall asleep and wake up ready to give a new day a fresh chance. I could not get her son out of my mind. That night I wrote a story about such an incident but I did not try to get it published for some words you need to bare your heart of just for yourself. But, since that day over a daceade ago, I do think back to that woman and her son and wonder what happened? What happened?
Poet Arisa White is trying to answer exactly that in Post Pardon, a series of poems loosely based on Vazirani’s death. White had met Vazirini and her son, Jehan, and she was also a student of Jehan’s father, Pultizer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa. White says:
“Post Pardon is an investigation of that why; it is an effort to occupy the mindset of a person who would commit an act of murder-suicide, in such a way where reason is not given, judgment is not passed, or excuses are formulated. The series of poems is a chorus of voices speaking from the interiority of a woman who contemplates life: the taking of her own and that of her only child.”
To peer into what may have lain in Vazirani’s heart, Arisa White uses the strategies of Irish poets Medbh McGuckian and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. White was drawn to McGuckian’s ablity to imagine and create worlds of her own and Dhomhnaill gaze into the spaces between sanity and insanity. White is also writing an opera based on Post Pardon.