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Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals
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Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  154 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
This Shining Collection by the beloved Kashmiri-American poet (finalist for the National Book Award in 2001) is his last witness. In many of the ghazals. Ali salutes poets known and loved -- W. S. Merwin, Mark Strand, James Tare, and more -- while in other searingly honest ghazals he courageously faces his own mortality.
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2003)
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Zulqarnain Ali Zaki
Apr 26, 2017 Zulqarnain Ali Zaki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
God, limit these punishments, there's still Judgment Day--
I'm a mere sinner, I'm no infidel tonight.
Apr 27, 2011 S. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2011
I like ghazals and this poet was a great promoter of the form in America. I enjoyed reading these because of my interest in writing in this form.

To be honest I'm ambivalent about some points of the ghazal form, like including one's name or alias in the penultimate line. I'm not a fan of that. I think self-referencing in poems is hard to pull off without self-importance, although some do it well (Leonard Nathan, for example). In reading, as in looking at art, I would like to concentrate on the w
Helene Pilibosian
I knew nothing about ghazals, a form of poetry, until I read this book. The author is certainly a master of the form, which is different from the usual American poetry. He writes of love and grief with tremendous understanding in lines such as "they left him alive so that he could be lonely." He reaches magnificent imagery such as "the air is my vinegar, I, its perfect preserve." I could not have asked for a book of poems with more beauty and with more understanding for the suffering of human be ...more
Jul 02, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, the ghazal! Beautiful the soul that wrote these poems.

When through night's veil they continue to seep, stars
in infant galaxies begin to weep stars.

After the eclipse, there were no cheap stars
How can you be so cheap, stars?

How grateful I am you stay awake with me
till by dawn, like you, I'm ready to sleep, stars!

If God sows sunset embers in you, Shahid,
all night, because of you, the world will reap stars.
Feb 18, 2008 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Very disappointing. I love ghazals, but this collection did nothing for me. The form feels utterly forced and misplaced, the content crowded with poetic and literary references - a big wink to everyone in the know. I wouldn't mind the cleverness, I suppose, if the resulting couplets earned it. They didn't.
Jul 20, 2010 Pamela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Good as an example of ghazals, but I connected with only a few poems.
Mar 04, 2015 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last fall, I scored a collection of 50-60 Indian LPs at a local thrift store. Several of these were recordings of ghazals put to music. It was a literary form I'd never heard of before. The music was beautiful - performers from Pakistan, the Kashmir region and western India. Harmonium, tabla and other instruments set the backdrop for stunning lyrical explorations in Urdu, Persian or Arabic (and I can't understand a word of any of it). I loved the expressiveness of it, even with my ignorance of t ...more
Indran Fernando
Jan 08, 2017 Indran Fernando rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I had familiarized myself with this form a bit before reading this; this lack of familiarity might be part of why this felt less accessible than Half-Inch Himalayas. This collection also contains a lot of allusions the depth of which I wasn't able to appreciate.

I like the concreteness of Ali's poems; even when they are dense, they are usually tangible and intimate. Several of the poems stirred up unexpected memories from different times in my life.
Feb 14, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-request
I stumbled upon this in my local library and read half before I'd exited the building. Ghazals are from an ancient poetic tradition, used by Rumi and later Goethe. Ali was a proponent of the form, and wrote these in English (first to do so, I seem to recall). This is an excellent book.

Four years later, I've borrowed the book again to reread, a sign that I should buy myself a copy.
Jul 02, 2008 Abby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, mfa-3rd-term
Moments of real beauty, but on the whole much less powerful than I expected. I would love to understand how these poems rank within the ghazal tradition, as to me they often seemed disjointed and heavy -- quite the opposite of what I understand the music of the form to be.
Jan 12, 2014 Malia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2014-reads
There were plenty of poems in here that didn't work for me, but the ones that did were just dazzling. I love ghazals because of the inherent vulnerability of having to name yourself in them, plus the kind of wordplay the form requires.
Jul 13, 2009 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This is my favorite of Agha Shahid Ali's books. These ghazals are consistently engaging, surprising, and starkly beautiful. The amazing trick here is that the form so solidly carries through the book.
Gabriel Gaybraham
beautiful, that's it, that's all, check out his tribute to Said
August Letendre
Jan 15, 2015 August Letendre rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I'm not a huge fan of the gazelle as a poetic form. However, these managed to draw me in.
Jun 12, 2009 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title poem might just be my one favorite poem.
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Agha Shahid Ali (आगा शाहीद अली) was an American poet of Kashmiri ancestry and upbringing.

His poetry collections include A Walk Through the Yellow Pages, The Half-Inch Himalayas, A Nostalgist's Map of America, The Country Without a Post Office, Rooms Are Never Finished (finalist for the National Book Award, 2001). His last book was Call Me Ishmael Tonight, a collection of English ghazals. His poems
More about Agha Shahid Ali...

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“He’s freed some fire from ice in pity for Heaven.
He’s left open—for God—the doors of Hell tonight.”
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