ISBN: 978-1-73639-637-7
Categories Chapbooks, Nomadic, Poetry

Prayer Under Eyelids

Publication Date: February 2021


In June of 2023, Black Lawrence Press welcomed numerous existing and forthcoming Nomadic Press titles to our catalogue. Prayer Under Eyelids was originally published by Nomadic.

Prayer Under Eyelids begins and ends with a child. In between, the poems, prayers, and notes in the collection explore migration, loss, and coming-of-age in a landscape where home is just over the horizon but always out of reach.


Prayer Under Eyelids reads like a book of hymns I want permanently by my side—it sings, invokes, and questions the going and the gone. With a father who doesn’t know how many photographs he has left, a mother who dresses herself in sheer abstractions, and a son stuffing as much into his stomach as he can, the hunger in these poems is insatiable, the cravings roar like echoes, and there is no place the writer’s ink won’t go to find a home for memory and its disappearing.

Preeti Vangani, author of Mother Tongue Apologize

Reading Karthik Sethuraman’s Prayer Under Eyelids is like flipping through a family album where all the photos are double exposed. In these poems we encounter a speaker who has chosen to exist in the liminal space between the past and present. When home is not the place but the people, how do we go on without them? Karthik writes “I have this fear of losing / myself to wholeness.” After reading Prayer Under Eyelids, I have an entirely new understanding of what it means to be whole.

-Paige Lewis, author of SPACE STRUCK, curator of Ours Poetica

There’s this lovely way Prayer Under Eyelids brings me to a place of still and how it animates and brings life to this stillness—the way it examines myth and memory, the ways in which our ancestry inhabits us, is a wonder. In this work, I find a way to see grief, longing, and desire with newer eyes. Karthik is a poet who knows that someone is listening, who lets you know that he is always listening back.

-Jason Bayani, author of Locus, Artistic Director of Kearny Street Workshop

The breadth of diaspora is not simply measured by miles, flights, and remittances—as Karthik Sethuraman shows in Prayer Under Eyelids, this gap can be represented more miniaturely as the distances that separate one from one’s mother, one’s father, and their own parents. Here is diaspora as a negative space that must be filled by either yearning or intimacy. Karthik is a curator of the residue tracked across migrations (in this case, that of the Tamil diaspora). By turns sensuous and fabulist, tender and traced by a subtle violence, these poems are the trail of a seeker who practices love as a manner of piety.

-Ken Chen, author of Juvenilia, Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library

About the Author

© Kevin Lu

Karthik Sethuraman

Karthik Sethuraman is an Indian-American living in California. His works have appeared in The Rumpus, AAWW, Fugue, Nimrod, and Fairy Tale Review. One work, Saramakavi, was performed at the Asian Art Museum where he was a KSW writing fellow.

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