Agha Shahid Ali Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Agha Shahid Ali (AH-lee) was both a poet and a scholar. In 1986, he published T. S. Eliot as Editor, a critical work based on his doctoral dissertation. Ali also was a translator and an editor. With the help of his mother, Sufia Agha Ashraf Ali, he translated the poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz from Urdu into English, collecting them in The Rebel’s Silhouette: Selected Poems (1995). In 2000, he edited Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English, with an afterword by Sara Suleri Goodyear.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Agha Shahid Ali won a Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001. A fellowship from the Ingram Merrill Foundation aided his writing of A Nostalgist’s Map of America and his work on The Rebel’s Silhouette. He was also awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and an Artist’s Fellowship for Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts, which helped in the writing of The Country Without a Post Office. In addition, Ali received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Since 2003, the University of Utah Press and the University of Utah’s Department of English have annually awarded the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry.

These awards are testament to Ali’s tremendous contribution to poetry through his successful blending of both Western and Eastern influences in his life and in his writing. His thoughtful responses as a native in the multiracial, multicultural, multireligious, and multilingual environment of India (and Kashmir) and as an immigrant in the United States to racial, cultural, religious, and linguistic differences are reflected throughout his poetry. Furthermore, Ali solidified the North American understanding of the verse form of the ghazal through his translation of Faiz’s poetry, his anthology of North American ghazals, and his publication of his own ghazals.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Ali, Agha Shahid. “Conversation with Agha Shahid Ali.” Interview by Christine Benevenuto. Massachusetts Review 43, no. 2 (Summer, 2002): 261-268. This interview from the late 1990’s examines the poet’s life and work.

_______. “A Darkly Defense of Dead White Males.” In Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play, edited by Daniel Tobin and Pimone Triplett. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. Ali writes about the craft of poetry and how being a multiple exile affects his work.

Chiu, Jeannie. “Melancholy and Human Rights in A Nostalgist’s Map of America and Midnight’s Children.” Literature Interpretation Theory 16, no. 1 (January-March, 2005): 25-39. Provides a theoretical framework for discussing nostalgia. Examines Ali’s A Nostalgist’s Map of America and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981).

Ghosh, Amitav. “The Ghat of the Only World: Agha Shahid Ali in Brooklyn.” Annual of Urdu Studies 17 (2002): 1-19. An account of Ali’s life and work written after Ali’s death at his own request.

Hogan, Patrick Colm. Empire and Poetic Voice. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004. Dedicated to Ali and includes an entire chapter on Ali’s “From Another Desert” in A Nostalgist’s Map of America.

Woodland, Malcolm. “Memory’s Homeland: Agha Shahid Ali and the Hybrid Ghazal.” English Studies in Canada 31, nos. 2/3 (June-September, 2005): 249-272. An excellent discussion of Ali’s use of the ghazal.