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A Nostalgist’s Map of America: Poems by Agha Shahid Ali

 Author: Ali, Agha Shahid  Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company  Published: 1991  ISBN: 978-0393309249  Pages: 105  Country: USA  Language: English  Get this book
A Nostalgist’s Map of America: Poems by Agha Shahid Ali

“With his prologue poem “Eurydice,” Agha Shahid Ali’s Nostalgist introduces the motifs of journey and exile, myth and politics, history and loss, that animate this collection.

Mapping America as he travels westward, the Nostalgist is an exile from his native Kashmir, and even from his first American home; his is the unique perspective of the outsider. These jeweled, intricate poems, like the multilayered “In Search of Evanescence,” locate and reflect the America that must be “unseen to be believed.”

Somewhere between cartographer and stargazer, the Nostalgist links images of water, desert, and myth, returning to Tucson in the monsoons, or seeing Chile in his rearview mirror, all the while creating an intense and vital vision.”


“There are Mogul palace ceilings whose countless mirrored convexities at once reduce, multiply, scatter and enchant the figures under their spell. If I may speak for ‘America, ‘ it is a privilege to be held in so mercurial, many-faceted a gaze as this poet’s, who goes to the heart of my troubles and turns them into bitter honey.” — James Merrill


“Moving on in the dark like some ghostly train in the desert, Agha Shahid Ali’s A Nostalgist’s Map of America charts a painful passage through wastes of history and nature on the way to Hope, an everreceding horizon illuminated by the cold sapphire glimmerings of evening stars. His Night Train pursues an impossible destination that he names evanescence, the vanishing point and moment when fixities evaporate and possibilities waver is in the air to condense, through poetic resolve, into rare forms of ephemeral beauty like Black Iris in the wilderness.

At the finish—and all the way to the end of the line—A Nostalgist’s Map of America is a thoroughly accomplished volume, evocative, haunting, and almost tragically beautiful. Its design and execution is equally impressive; like the artwork of that other poet of the desert—Georgia O’Keeffe—A Nostalgist’s Map of America is a study in chromatics, a reworking of images and motifs in subtley varied hues and shades of difference on large, multiple canvasses. It invites and rewards careful reading and re-reading: Agha Shahid Ali’s Night Train on the Desert gains power at every turning and provides its riders with wonderful passages and transport.”

Lawrence Needham, In Pursuit of Evanescence: Agha Shahid Ali’s A Nostalgist’s Map of America, Kunapipi, 15(2), 1993.