Poetry at the Post: To Kashmir & More via Agha Shahid Ali


Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar
—Laurence Hope

Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?
Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?

Those “Fabrics of Cashmere—” “to make Me beautiful—”
“Trinket”—to gem—“Me to adorn—How tell”—tonight?

A Muslim shawl making family shown in Cashmere shawl manufactory, 1867, chromolith., William Simpson.
A Muslim shawl making family shown in Cashmere shawl manufactory, 1867, chromolith., William Simpson.

Call for Papers!

22-23 September 2016 – “Partition and Empire: Ireland, India, Palestine and Beyond (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).

The imperial partitions of the twentieth century reverberate to the present, and inform contemporary insecurities of different regimes across the world. Present-day challenges to the post­colonial nation­state and its boundaries are often rooted in imperial partitions. Whether in Kashmir, Syria or Palestine, the legacies of partition form the everyday experiences of conflict and violence for millions of people. With these considerations in mind, this conference will explore the theme of partition and empire in global, comparative, and connective frames. Though we focus on the partitions of Ireland, India, and Palestine, we welcome papers addressing imperial partitions in other regions of the world. Topics include but are not limited to violence; sovereignty; sexuality and the body; displacement and dispossession; memory and cultural production; territoriality and borders; identity and state formation; pedagogies and/or epistemologies of partition. We invite a title and abstract of 250 words due emailed to partitionsconferenceUIUC@gmail.com. Conference attendees will pre-circulate papers (of about 8,000 words including footnotes), due August 19, 2016. Travel and accommodation will be provided for all conference attendees.

General view of Temple and Enclosure of Marttand (the Sun), at Bhawan, ca. 490–555; the colonnade ca. 693–729. Surya Mandir at Martand, Jammu & Kashmir, India, photographed by John Burke, 1868.
General view of Temple and Enclosure of Marttand (the Sun), at Bhawan, ca. 490–555; the colonnade ca. 693–729. Surya Mandir at Martand, Jammu & Kashmir, India, photographed by John Burke, 1868.

Poetry at the Post: It’s All About Red in Oaxaca with Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Red Ghazal

I’ve noticed after a few sips of tea, the tip of her tongue, thin and red
with heat, quickens when she describes her cuts and bruises—deep violets and red.

FullSizeRender-26 FullSizeRender-29 FullSizeRender-28 FullSizeRender-23


Red! I love the color—and the poetic form of the ghazal. It’s not difficult to find the color red in Oaxaca, Mexico—it’s everywhere! These are some quick shots I took on  my iPhone Sunday morning while walking back to my apartment after breakfast. Just red!


FullSizeRender-24 red 9 FullSizeRender-31


I’m terrible at cards. Friends huddle in for Euchre, Hearts—beg me to play
with them. When it’s obvious I can clearly win with a black card, I select a red.

The Hungarian National Epic

Nikola Šubić Zrinski's Charge from the Fortress of Szigetvár
Nikola Šubić Zrinski’s Charge from the Fortress of Szigetvár by Johann Peter Kraft, 1825

I’m addicted to epics! I admit it. I’ve read 13 of them so far but a few days ago I stumbled upon The Siege of Sziget, the Hungarian national epic. Where had this one been hiding? Within the Hungarian language, apparently, as it has only recently been published for the first time ever in English. (THE SIEGE OF SZIGET by Miklos Zriny, as translated by László Kõrössy. Catholic University of America Press, 2011.)

The Siege of Sziget is a latecomer in the European epics. Written in 1647 by Miklós Zríny, it tells the story of the final battle of another Miklós Zríny (the author’s great granddad) against the Ottomans in 1566. The Ottomans were the victors but at a heavy cost with 20,000 Turks lost including Sultan Suleiman, their leader. However, it stopped the Ottomans from pushing forward towards Vienna that year and so from the Christian point of view, the Battle, although a loser, was successful.

From the the little I have read so far, The Siege of Sziget has all the characteristics of the traditional epic. It begins with an invocation to a Muse; there is a bloody battle; and things get mixed up (or conveniently arranged depending on one’s point of view) by the interference of the gods, or in this case, God. I’ll be adding The Siege of Sziget to the list of upcoming epics in the Global Reading Group, a virtual literary salon, so send me a note if you’d like to read along. http://moiramcpartlin.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/epics-on-global-scale.html

For more info on The Siege of Sziget and its translation, visit


And, as an extra bonus, here is Szigeti veszedelem, or The Siege of Sziget , in Hungarian.


Suleiman the Magnificent

Suleiman the Magnificent as a young man by Nakkas Osman, 1579.
Topkapi Palace Museum
Istanbul Turkey
Photo courtesy of Bilkent University

Something of interest I discovered was that Suleiman, known as Suleiman the Magnificent, was also a poet and a big time supporter of the arts during his 46 year reign. Most of his poems were written to his wife, the daughter of an Orthodox priest who had been abducted and sold as a slave in Constantinople. Reportedly, the great Suleiman was quite mad about Hurrem Sultan—so much so that she was the only one of his harem he made his legal wife. You can read one of his lovely ghazals here: http://www.ottomansouvenir.com/General/Turkish_Poetry.htm#Gazel6#lateantiquitystudiesBudapest2014

My weekly prompt (feel free to use it too): Write a ghazal. Here are some words to consider incorporating in the poem: to crush, to blow, to swell, stiff-necked, Constantinople, blanket, and blood. Use a title of rank and the imperative “Believe, believe…”