Agha Shahid Ali

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Agha Shahid Ali
Born (1949-02-04)February 4, 1949
Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
Died December 8, 2001(2001-12-08) (aged 52)
Resting place Amherst, Massachusetts
Alma mater University of Kashmir Hindu College, University of Delhi Pennsylvania State University (Phd) and University of Arizona (MFA)
Occupation Poet, Professor
Known for National Book Award 2001 ,Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada
Notable credit(s) The Country Without a Post Office, Rooms Are Never Finished and The Rebel's Silhouette
Relatives Agha Ashraf Ali
Agha Iqbal Ali
Prof. Henna Ahmad

Agha Shahid Ali (4 February 1949 – 8 December 2001) was a Kashmiri poet.[1][2] His collections include A Walk Through the Yellow Pages, The Half-Inch Himalayas, A Nostalgist's Map of America, The Country Without a Post Office, Rooms Are Never Finished, the latter a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001.

The University of Utah Press awards the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize annually "in memory of a celebrated poet and beloved teacher".[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Agha Shahid Ali was born in Srinagar, India.[4] He was raised in Kashmir but left for the United States in 1976.[5] Shahid's father Agha Ashraf Ali is a renowned educationist of Jammu and Kashmir. Shahid's grandmother Begum Zafar Ali an educationist, was the first woman matriculate of Kashmir.[6] Shahid was educated at the Burn Hall School, later University of Kashmir and the Hindu College, University of Delhi.[1] He earned a Ph.D. in English from Pennsylvania State University in 1984, and an M.F.A. from the University of Arizona in 1985.[1] He held teaching positions at nine universities and colleges in India and the United States.[1]


Ali expressed his love and concern for his people in In Memory of Begum Akhtar and The Country Without a Post Office, which was written with the Kashmir conflict as backdrop.[6] He was a translator of the Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz (The Rebel's Silhouette; Selected Poems),[7] and the editor for the Middle East and Central Asia segment of Jeffery Paine's Poetry of Our World.[8]

He compiled the volume Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English. His last book was Call Me Ishmael Tonight, a collection of English ghazals, and his poems are featured in American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets (2006) and other anthologies. Ghat of the only world written by Amitav Ghosh is a tribute of friend to Agha Shahid Ali. Ali was the close friend of Amitav Ghosh.

Ali taught at the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at University of Massachusetts Amherst, at the MFA Writing Seminars at Bennington College as well as at creative writing programs at University of Utah, Baruch College, Warren Wilson College, Hamilton College and New York University. He died of brain cancer in December 2001 and was buried in Northampton, Massachusetts.[9]


Ali was deeply moved by the music of Begum Akhtar. Several niches in his apartment had photos of the people who had deeply influenced his work - Akhtar's photo occupied one of these spaces. The two had met through a friend of Akhtar's when Ali was a teenager and her music became a lasting presence in his life. Features of her ghazal rendition - the presence of wit, wordplay and nakhra(affectation) were found in Ali's poetry as well. However, Amitav Ghosh suspects that the strongest connection between the two rose from the idea that "sorrow has no finer mask than a studied lightness of manner" - traces of which were seen in Ali's and Akhtar's demeanor in their respective lives.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d "A Tribute to Agha Shahid Ali". Jacket Magazine. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  2. ^ An interethnic companion to Asian American literature. Cambridge University Press. 1997. ISBN 9780521447904. Retrieved 2 January 2010. Contemporary South Asian American writers belong primarily to this middle and upper class: Indo-American Agha Shahid Ali, Meena Alexander, Bharati Mukherjee, Vikram Seth, Pakistani American Sara Suleria, Javaid Qazi, Indo-Canadian Rohinton Mistry, Uma Parameswaran, Sri Lankan Canadian Michael Ondaatje, and Indo-Guyanese Canadian Cyril Dabydeen, among others. 
  3. ^ "Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize". Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Sarah Wetzel-Fishman (10 June 2009). "The veiled suite, the collected poems by agha shahid ali". Rattle. 
  6. ^ a b "'The Ghat Of The Only World': Agha Shahid Ali in Brooklyn". Outlook. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  7. ^ Book Excerptise:Rebel's Silhouette (extended extracts and literary history)
  8. ^ Poetry of Our World (excerpts)
  9. ^ Parveen, Rasheda (2014). "Agha Shahid Ali's English Ghazals and the Transnational Politics of Literary Subversion" (PDF). The Challenge. 23 (1). 
  10. ^ Ghosh, Amitav. "The Ghat of The Only World". Amitav Ghosh. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]