Manan Kapoor talks about the Ghazal, the medieval Arabic poetic form which travelled to the Indian subcontinent in the 12th century and flourished there ever since. He focuses on the work of Agha Shahid Ali, the Kashmiri-American poet who perfected the art of the ghazal in the English language. Kapoor’s biography of Shahid, A Map of Longings, was published earlier this year. Particular references are made to the poem “In Arabic” from Shahid’s collection Call me Ishmael Tonight, the ghazals sung by Begum Akhtar which greatly influenced Shahid’s work, and English ghazals written by poets like Adrienne Rich which he critiqued.

Manan Kapoor is an Indian writer and translator. A Map of Longings: The Life and Works of Agha Shahid Ali (Vintage, Penguin Random House India) is his latest work. His debut novel The Lamentations of a Sombre Sky was shortlisted for Sahitya Akademi’s Yuva Puruskar 2017. In 2019, he was a writer-in-residence at Sangam House Writers’ Residency. His writings have appeared in The Caravan Magazine, Boston Review, The Hindu, Stockholm Review of Literature, Scroll, The Wire, and Firstpost among others. He lives in Chandigarh.

Image: “Gazelle” © 2021 Saronik Bosu (The word ‘ghazal’ and ‘gazelle’ share a root in Arabic, the poetic form compared originally to the lament of a wounded gazelle).

Music used for promotional material: “Raga Kirwani” on the Sarod by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

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