Immigrant Poet Kills Son, Self, Police Say

From the Washington Post

A prize-winning poet who used verse to describe her experiences as a child and as an Indian immigrant was identified by police Thursday as the woman who slashed the wrist of her 2-year-old son and her own Wednesday and then died with him in a pool of blood.

Reetika Vazirani, 40, and Jehan Vazirani Komunyakaa were found lying next to each other in the dining room of a house in Chevy Chase, Md., where Vazirani was house-sitting.

Police called the deaths an apparent murder-suicide, but no official ruling has been made. Investigators found a note with references to the boy’s father, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Komunyakaa could not be reached Thursday, and relatives in the area would not comment, said one woman who would not identify herself at a family home in Silver Spring, Md.


Vazirani’s editor described her as a warm, intelligent person whose poems explored the two worlds that immigrants inhabit. Her work was published in several poetry journals in addition to her books, and she was active in creative writing circles.

She won the 2003 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for her second book, “World Hotel,” and a Barnard New Women Poets Prize for her first, “White Elephants,” published in 1996.

Neighbors and friends said there had been signs that Vazirani was distraught.

The day before the bodies were found, they said, she sought out a meeting with a priest and borrowed a Bible from a neighbor.


Vazirani and her son were staying for the summer in a three-story house owned by friends.