Agha Ali Shahid (1949-2001) was one of the few poets who had the audacity to experiment with poetic forms
By Rizwan Akhtar
Agha Ali Shahid’s poetic journey started from the mesmerising Kashmir valley. He re-imagined and re-employed the tradition of Urdu ghazal and successfully mixed it with the English poetic forms. He is responsible for not only enriching English language with his poetic sensibility, but also for creating favourable circumstances in the ‘Transatlantic Diaspora’ traditions, so that it re-introduced ghazal to the English eyes and ears.
Shahid relocated himself in American landscape, using ghazal as a conduit for his literary identity. As a natural corollary to this effort, the poet is inspired to write ‘Urduised’ English ghazals. Shahid transmutes the poetic consciousness of Urdu language and juxtaposes it with postcolonial American-Asian immigrant consciousness. This endeavour is a homage to the creative ego of the poet and a service to the international body of poetry.
Inarguably, Shahid’s sensibility was shaped and stamped by an interminable wave of violence in Kashmir. The daily pangs of a common Kashmiri and the politician’s indifference stands in contrast to the bewitching splendour of the valley. Far from being an essentialist observer, Shahid also speaks in subtle ironies and sustained metaphors as he translates the political predicament of Kashmir. Induced by other international geographical and racial conflicts, he wistfully recalls his absence from his homeland while living in the urban environ of Massachusetts. Continue reading