SRINAGAR: An American college has launched an ambitious project to digitally archive video-taped readings, personal documents, letters, and manuscripts of the celebrated Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001).
The project named after one of Shahid’s prominent works, ‘The Beloved Witness,’ is a collaborative effort launched by the Digital Humanities initiative (DHi) at New York’s Hamilton College. The DHi is a collaboratory for a research and teaching collaboration where new media and computing technologies are used to promote humanities-based teaching and research.
Funded by the Mellon Foundation, the archive will expand through contributions of letters, documents, critical perspectives and creative responses from colleagues, friends and readers of Shahid's works.
Shahid is considered to be one of the most accomplished Kashmiri poets whose poems have featured in American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets (2006) and many other anthologies. Born in Srinagar, Shahid authored several collections of poetry, including ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ wherein he eloquently portrays the plight of Kashmiris.
The DHi initiative has already placed a call on its website for materials, which include transcripts or video recordings of readings of Shahid performed at various institutions around the country, links to articles written about Shahid's work, personal letters from Shahid and any additional material related to his work.
Shahid’s other works include ‘Rooms Are Never Finished’, ‘The Half-Inch Himalayas’, ‘In Memory of Begum Akhtar’ and several others. He was also the author of ‘TS Eliot as Editor’, translator of ‘The Rebel's Silhouette: Selected Poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz’, and editor of ‘Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English’. Shahid’s last collection was ‘Call Me Ishmael Tonight’. He was diagnosed with brain tumour, and died in 2001, aged just 52.
Shahid became particularly known for his efforts to popularize ghazal in English language while joining it with Western poetic influences, including the sounds and rhythms of the English language.