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In the 3rd and 4th stanza of the poem"Postcard from Kashmir" by...

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mubin2712 | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted September 13, 2010 at 4:36 PM via web

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In the 3rd and 4th stanza of the poem"Postcard from Kashmir" by Agha Shahid Ali, why does the poet break line into more than one?

 

Postcard from Kashmir

Agha Shahid Ali

Kashmir shrinks into my mailbox,
my home a neat four by six inches.

I always loved neatness. Now I hold
the half-inch Himalayas in my hand.

This is home. And this the closest
I'll ever be to home. When I return,
the colors won't be so brilliant,
the Jhelum's waters so clean,
so ultramarine. My love
so overexposed.

And my memory will be a little
out of focus, it in
a giant negative, black
and white, still undeveloped.

 

I have been researching this poetry over a year. I find couple of things that i want to share with you; but i am not sure which one is close to correct .

In the 3rd and 4th stanza of the above poem, the poet breaks the line into more than one. What might be the reason?

1. make a visual shape of his mental image

2. force the reader to read some of the specific phrases.

 3. To force the reader to read two sentences instead of one sentence.

4. Alter meaning of a particular words.

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kmcappello | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted September 14, 2010 at 7:57 AM (Answer #1)

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I assume when you say "the poet breaks the line into more than one" you mean the poet breaks the sentence into lines.  An important part of poetry, the line is completely different than a grammatic sentence.  A full sentence can continue for more than one line, and sometimes more than one stanza.  The reason for breaking a sentence into lines of poetry can be varied, some of which you identify in your question.  Poets can break lines for rhythmic or sound effect, as in a poem with a specific rhyme scheme.  A line can also be broken to achieve a certain shape, as in concrete poetry, to emphasize a word or phrase, to compare or contrast words, or to force the reader to speed up or slow down.

Agha Shahid Ali's beautiful little poem, "Postcard from Kashmir" mimics its subject matter in size and shape.  The poem, only four stanzas, is like a postcard in that it packs much into a small space.  In this way, you could argue that #1 is the correct answer, and that the poet is trying to recreate the look and feel of a postcard.  But as in most poetry, there is no right or wrong answer, only interpretation.

I actually see a much stronger argument for #2.  Shahid Ali has broken the line at some very significant places in stanzas 3 and 4 which affect the reading of the stanza.  In particular in stanza 3, there is a high amount of repetition of phrase structure: "so brilliant...so clean/so ultramarine...so overexposed."  By breaking the lines where he does, Shahid Ali draws attention to this repetition, which creates a subtle rhythm that is almost prayer-like or chant-like in quality.  He also draws attention to the language of photography by ending stanzas 3 and 4 with the words "overexposed" and "underdeveloped."  By drawing emphasis to these words, Shahid Ali compares the permanent quality of a photograph to the impermanence of memory.

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