A Remembrance: Agha Shahid Ali

 

Kashmiri-American Poet [February 4th, 1949 – 8th December 2001]

In this 2010 winter issue, we mark Kashmiri American poet Agha Shahid Ali’s birthday which falls on February 4th. Shahid had very short time on this earth nevertheless the genius of his poetry blossomed and continues to flourish in the West and is held dear in the valley.

Kashmir Lit salutes Shahid the person and the poet (although separating the two is quite unnecessary). His incredible body of work is deeply entwined with Kashmir, its tumultuous history, tragic beauty and the hardy burdened people. Incidentally, but not without reason Faiz Ahmad Faiz, postcolonial South Asia’s greatest writer follows with his birthday on February 14th.

 

 

Faiz was, as is manifested in Shahid’s careful translations of his greatest poems, a spiritual and an intellectual inspiration to Shahid and he remains the same to us!

‘this is the shortest day.
He’s taken there.
Those about to die are
looking at him,
his eyes the ledger of the disappeared…’

[From A Nostalgist’s Map of America by Agha Shahid Ali, published by W.W.Norton and Company. Copyright 1991 by Agha Shahid Ali]

 

‘When we saw the/ wounds of our country/appear on our skins, /we believed each word of
the healers/Besides we remembered/so many cures,/ it seemed any moment/ all troubles would end….’

[Excerpt from The Rebel’s Silhouette by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, translated by Agha Shahid Ali.Copyright 1991 by Agha Shahid Ali.]

Watch a video of Shahid reading his poetry [credit With Kashmir]

Listen to Shahid’s poignant poem “The Veil Suite” [credit Izhar Patkin website]

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