The Country Without a Post Office: Poems

Overview

A haunted and haunting volume that establishes this Kashmiri-American poet as aseminal voice writing in English. In this new collection, his most ambitious, Ali finds that contemporary history has forced him to return to his homeland, not with the ease of a tourist as he would have liked, but as a witness to the savagery visited upon Kashmir since the 1990 uprising against Indian rule. Amid rain and fire and ruin, in a land of "doomed addresses," Ali evokes the tragedy of his birthplace. These are stunning poems,...
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Overview

A haunted and haunting volume that establishes this Kashmiri-American poet as aseminal voice writing in English. In this new collection, his most ambitious, Ali finds that contemporary history has forced him to return to his homeland, not with the ease of a tourist as he would have liked, but as a witness to the savagery visited upon Kashmir since the 1990 uprising against Indian rule. Amid rain and fire and ruin, in a land of "doomed addresses," Ali evokes the tragedy of his birthplace. These are stunning poems, intensely musical steeped in history, myth, and politics all merging into Ali's truest mode, that of longing.

In the seventh collection from Agha Shahid Ali, we find lyric strained to its limits; it is a difficult thing to face the complexity and horror his native Kashmir, and still keep singing. Thus, the poems of The Country Without a Post Office must veer from highly wrought music ("So cruel then that each star be our jewel/ and no one to witness it") into prose ("The only language of loss left in the world is Arabic"). Director of the writing program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Agha finds his return East vertiginously caught up with echoes of his literary life in the West, as Mandelstam, Hopkins and others are invoked alongside family members and Kashmiri political figures in his consciousness's rage for order.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is the seventh book of poetry by Ali (A Nostalgist's Map of America, Norton, 1992), director of the writing program at the University of Massachusetts. The book is a poignant, nostalgic evocation of Kashmir, Ali's homeland, with a special emphasis on the events since 1990 when Kashmir rebelled against Indian rule. At the center of this devastation, with "mass rapes in the villages/ towns left in cinders," is the desecration in 1995 of the shrine of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din, the patron saint of Kashmir. This Hindu-Moslem conflict reminds Ali of similar genocidal wars in Bosnia and Armenia. But in Kashmir the blood of victims falls like "rubies/ on Himalayan snow" while "guns shoot stars into the sky." Kashmiri myth and culture hang like a tapestry around the poems, dramatizing the importance of saffron, paisley, the Shalimar Gardens and the ghazal (folk songs). Ali also alludes to Tacitus, Yeats, Dickinson, Shakespeare, and Eliot. With the population decimated and the post office destroyed, Ali's poems become "cries like dead letters," and the poet becomes "keeper of the minaret." Essential for all large collections.Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, Ill.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393040579
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/1997
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.93 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Table of Contents

The Blessed Word: A Prologue 15
Farewell 21
I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight 24
The Last Saffron 27
I Dream I Am the Only Passenger on Flight 423 to Srinagar 30
"Some Vision of the World Cashmere" 35
"Lo, A Tint Cashmere!/ Lo, A Rose!" 37
Ghaza! 40
Dear Shahid 43
A Pastoral 44
Return to Harmony 3 46
The Country Without a Post Office 48
The Floating Post Office 52
The Correspondent 54
A Fate's Brief Memoir 59
At the Museum 65
A History of Paisley 66
A Footnote to History 69
Son et Lumiere at Shalimar Garden 71
Ghazal 73
First Day of Spring 77
Ghazal 78
Death Row 79
The City of Daughters 80
Muharram in Srinagar, 1992 84
Hans Christian Ostro 86
A Villanelle 88
After the August Wedding in Lahore, Pakistan 89
Notes 93
About the Author 96
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