Agha Shahid Ali

Agha Shahid Ali (1949–2001) grew up Muslim in Kashmir. A finalist for the National Book Award, he helped bring the ghazal to the attention of other American poets. In “Tonight,” he wrote: And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee— / God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.

Ali drew on South Asian poetry traditions and joined them with Western poetic influences, including the sounds and rhythms of English. The results were truly multicultural, as in the poem “Snowmen” about his imagined Himalyan ancestor.