“Her hands full of earth, she kneels, in red suede high heels:” Planting a New Language in Diaspo/Renga

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi This past summer, news of the Gaza massacres came most revealingly in images and videos taken with cell phones— the devices originally intended to connect us through voice, chronicling instead the horrors befalling Palestinians in real time, horrors that defy conventional language, and will not be chronicled with fidelity by the…

Shade

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi Allahu Akbar or God is Great, the anthem stolen by the wicked terrorist, whose attack is aimed at life, what holds life together for me— the zikr: Allahu Akbar, God is Greater, greater than prayer, greater than the spectacularly leaping science, the elegance of logic, the morality police, the lust of…

Bouquet of Nerves

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi Starry night, a large starry night with infinite trees, is the background of what seems to be an architectural form— a balcony, bridge, courtyard with pillars? In the foreground, a sphere with a curve draped over it like an arm. This drawing has the expansiveness that suggests eternity (or waiting for…

Interrogating a Poet

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi You write of your country as if from a great distance. Distance is journey’s squinting twin; it courts vision. My country, you will understand, came from vision’s egg. It came from a dreamer of journeys—a poet who entertained nightly the spirits of distant poets: Plato, Ghazali, Rumi, Hafiz, Goethe— sojourners all.…

Jinn

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi Jinn: a spirit capable of appearing in human and animal forms and influencing humankind for either good or evil. A startling laugh, low as if muffled by a dupatta, an old net dupatta I imagine, makes me turn but there is no one there. The walls are the color of vanilla…

The Qasida as a Vehicle of Desire in Lorca’s “Casida De La Rosa”

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi Federico Garcia Lorca’s casidas are free adaptations of the Andalusi-Arabic qasidas, which he had read in Spanish. In Robert Bly’s English rendition of Lorca’s casidas, the flavor of the classical Arabic qasida form has been preserved to a considerable extent, even though it reaches us through various levels of distillation: first,…

“Saying” the Ghazal: Duende and Performing the Courtly Art of the Ghazal

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi Mughal miniature showing a poetry reading, c. 1640-50 The ghazal entered my consciousness first as music (on Radio Pakistan or my parents’ LPs), accessible only through melody, beat, rhyme, refrain; the poem’s literary heft, of course, utterly lost on me. The ghazal was really a visceral stimulus in my pre-language existence…