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Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001) was a poet, translator and academic from Kashmir. He is credited
with single-handedly introducing the classical ghazal to America and the West, which spurred a
whole bunch of native English writers trying their hand at the ghazal. Here is a poem from his
collection The Country Without a Post Office, about how felt when he received a postcard
from his violence-ridden Kashmir.

Postcard from Kashmir

Kashmir shrinks into my mailbox,


my home a near four by six inches.
I always loved neatness. Now I hold
the half-inch Himalayas in my hand.
This is home. And this is the closest
Ill ever be to home. When I return,
the colors wont be so brilliant.
The Jhelums waters so clean,
so ultramarine. My love
so overexposed.
And my memory will be a little
out of focus, in it
a giant negative, black
and white, still undeveloped.
From:
Ali, Agha S. "Postcard from Kashmir." Rooms Are Never Finished. 2001.
Postcard from Kashmir. P'-tr, 27 Jan. 2006. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.
Final Literary Thread: Agha Shahid Ali's poetic career reflects his personal attempt to cope with
exile
1. FORM

The Poem has three stanzas, the first and third stanzas has four lines while the second has
six

Poetic Form

Rhyme

Free-verse

Ali rhymes clean with ultramarine in the fifth and sixth lines of the second
stanza. He also has an internal rhyme in the first line of the third stanza, rhyming
memory with will be.

Meter

The last line of the second stanza is iambic trimeter.

In stanza two, the first syllable of lines 1-2 is stressed, the first syllable of lines 34 is unstressed, and the first syllable in lines 5-6 are stressed.

FUNCTION (consult Elements of Poetry handout)

MEANING

This poem is about how memories and pictures cannot compensate for actually
being in your homeland. The reference to a postcard shows that his
understanding of his homeland has become shallow and incomplete. Memories of
one's homeland are clouded by nostalgia, Ali remembers only the good, when the
reality of Kashmir was more accurately violent.

METHOD

Ali says that his home is now four by six inches, implying that he is nowhere
near capable of reproducing it in his mind.

The "half-inch Himalyas" show how something majestic can lose its sense of
grandeur, like Kashmir.

Ali describes his memories as undeveloped, showing that he is losing clarity of


culture/home.

Ali calls his memories undeveloped pictures (metaphor).

Kashmir physically becomes the postcard in his mailbox (metaphor).

Ali reminds the reader to be careful what they wish for, saying "I always loved
neatness" when he is clearly upset about the loss of everything else about his
home (irony).

THEME

Confronting loss of one's homeland, or even memories of it, is extremely painful.

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LITERARY THREAD

Ali experiences a kind of peaceful, but painful recognition that Kashmir is no longer his
home.

He attempt to deal with the fact that he doesn't remember on it, something he seems to
believe is akin to cheating on a lover.

It gives him an independant sense of loss because he knows that it is no longer like his
memories, it has been through violent revolt.