"Handmade by You": The Poetics and Politics of Long-Distance Correspondence in Agha Shahid Ali

Wang, Yichu, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Fountain, Thomas Kenny, English, University of Virginia

Communication evokes separation and union. This thesis reads Agha Shahid Ali’s poems on letter-writing to explore the meta-reflexive implications of entangled and/or alienated relations imagined between Ali and his correspondents. Tracing a way of thinking about artifacts that scholars have yet to elaborate, I consider Ali’s insistence on the importance of others’ acts of making for his own work of witness and remembrance. Within the context of postcolonial Kashmir’s past and present disappearances—dead arts, inaccessible homeland, displaced and perished people—the problem of representation and worldmaking enters into a politically charged conjunction with the intersubjective dependencies Ali presents as essential for artistic creation: a space of connection is both poetry’s aim and prerequisite, and it is precisely what violence denies. The main poems I analyze are “Stationery,” “Postcard from Kashmir,” and “Country Without a Post Office.” To fully unpack this small group of poems, I turn to ideas of the lyric subject as useful coordinates for thinking through Ali’s complex but moving meditations on the challenges of writing poetry.

MA (Master of Arts)
Agha Shahid Ali, Kashmir, Lyric, Witness, Relationality, Worldmaking
Issued Date: