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Ali wrote nine poetry collections and a book of literary criticism T. At the time of his death in , Ali was noted as a poet uniquely able to blend multiple ethnic influences and ideas in both traditional forms and elegant free-verse. His poetry reflects his Hindu, Muslim, and Western heritages. Ali was born in New Delhi, India in He grew up in Kashmir, the son of a distinguished and highly educated family in Srinagar.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards, including Guggenheim and Ingram-Merrill fellowships, Ali had an active academic career. In he began teaching at Hamilton College in New York, and later moved to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he served as the director of the MFA creative writing program.
Although the existential anxieties have their source in problems of growing up, leaving home, being a migrant, and the meeting of cultures, the idiom is American and contemporary. Kashmir is vividly evoked, all the more so for retaining an element of the fantastic.
Ali threads the story of the martyrdom of the Shia hero Hussain throughout his elegy, keeping the history and hope of transcendental violence always before us, drawing strength from the strain of esoteric Islam that runs through his work. Ali was also a noted writer of ghazals. What results in the rest of the poem is the alluring tension of a slave trying to master the master. Poet Donald Hall edited and provided the forward for The Veiled Suite , posthumously published in Prose Home Harriet Blog.
Visit Home Events Exhibitions Library. Newsletter Subscribe Give. Poetry Foundation. Back to Previous. Agha Shahid Ali. Poems by Agha Shahid Ali. Related Content. More About this Poet. Region: Asia, South. Poems by This Poet Related Bibliography. Appeared in Poetry Magazine. At the Museum. Lenox Hill. Of Light. A Pastoral. Prayer Rug. Snow on the Desert.
Vacating an Apartment. Asian American Voices in Poetry. A collection of poets and articles exploring Asian American culture. Read More. Poems on Immigration.
The stories of immigrants, refugees, and exiles can tell the history of a nation. Poems of Muslim Faith and Islamic Culture. A collection of poems, prose, and audio and video recordings that explore Islamic culture. Poem Guide. By Stephanie Burt. A contemporary take on an ancient Arabic form. Let Your Mirrored Convexities Multiply.
From Poetry Off the Shelf March From Audio Poem of the Day July Agha Shahid Ali read by Michael Stuhlbarg. Further Readings. James Press, Los Angeles Times, December 27, , p.
New York Times, December 26, , p. See a problem on this page?
The Refrains of Kashmir: Agha Shahid Ali's Canzones and the Forms of Exile
Swear by the olive in the God-kissed land— There is no sugar in the promised land. If home is found on both sides of the globe, home is of My ancestor, a man of Himalayan snow, came to Kashmir from Samarkand, carrying a bag of whale bones: heirlooms from sea funerals. His skeleton carved from glaciers, his breath arctic, he froze women in his embrace. His wife thawed into stony water, her old age a clear evaporation.
Agha Shahid Ali
Of what shall I not sing, and sing? He ends the ghazal with a terrifying lyric question, carving speaker and reader into the shape of their estrangements, as those two destinies to write and to read as the teloi of literary connection emerge in the alienations of writer from lyric subject and reader from interpellated other both beloved and strange. Such a claim requires that we consider what form might mean for Ali in particular. While Ali wrote many beautiful ghazals throughout his career, for a thorough examination of his commitment to formal poetry this paper turns instead to the canzones that may in some ways be considered his true masterpieces, both because of their unparalleled formal difficulty and because no other writer has produced their equal in English. The canzone  is a sixty-five line form in six stanzas with five refrain words, essentially a much more difficult version of a sestina. His thirst as desire and lack connects to the dream of return, while his feverish dancing, both at the wedding and in his verse craft, is exhausting.
Even the Rain
Ghazals also traditionally express the beauty and pain of loss and separation. What sorts of challenges might a poet face in using the ghazal form? In the last couplet of a ghazal, a poet traditionally includes his name. How did Ali adapt that tradition here? Could Ali also be alluding to the Biblical figure of Ishmael? Have students listen to the audio recording of the poem at least twice, marking the text with question marks something that evoked a question , hearts something pleasurable , and exclamation points something that rings true.
Poetry Out Loud
Ali wrote nine poetry collections and a book of literary criticism T. At the time of his death in , Ali was noted as a poet uniquely able to blend multiple ethnic influences and ideas in both traditional forms and elegant free-verse. His poetry reflects his Hindu, Muslim, and Western heritages. Ali was born in New Delhi, India in He grew up in Kashmir, the son of a distinguished and highly educated family in Srinagar. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, including Guggenheim and Ingram-Merrill fellowships, Ali had an active academic career.