When someone sees a perspective similar to theirs reflected in the works they read, it can resonate in a huge way.
For Mihaela Moscaliuc, she found this in the work of Agha Shahid Ali, an American poet with Kashmiri ancestry. As an immigrant writer herself — she was born and raised in Romania and educated in Romania and the United States — Moscaliuc felt a connection to Ali.
Moscaliuc is the poet-in-residence for Week Eight at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. With her Brown Bag, “Agha Shahid Ali, Transnational Poet,” she’ll explore the work of Ali and what she calls transnational poetics. Her lecture will be at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Moscaliuc is the author of the poetry collections Father Dirt and Immigrant Model and also works as an editor and translator. She said her interest in Ali and the influence of his work inspired her lecture.
Ali published numerous poetry collections during his lifetime, including Rooms are Never Finished, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry in 2001. He often said there was Muslim, Hindu and Western in him, and “cultural and spiritual polyphony” gave him what Moscaliuc believes to be a unique poetic voice.
“Ali saw his work as a reflection of various cultural permutations and as the product of various historical forces and literary traditions, so he often borrowed, appropriated and recontextualized myths, legends, histories and other writers’ work,” Moscaliuc said.
Moscaliuc said she’s fascinated by Ali’s use of intertextuality and appropriation in his work. These elements, along with Ali’s poetic voice, create what she refers to as a “transnational poetics.” She was also mesmerized by his use of ghazals, a poetic form with strict rules that utilizes repetition, rhyme and couplets. His collection Call Me Ishmael Tonight is a series of ghazals.
Moscaliuc also found herself drawn to his work because she saw something similar in their experiences.
“As an immigrant writer, I am attracted to poetries that explore issues of in-betweenness, discontinuous cultural identities, and historical conflict,” Moscaliuc said. “I am also intrigued by Ali’s erudition and intellectual grace, but also the boldness with which he weaves references and other’s work into his own. I read his work because it resonates with my own poetic interests, but also because I can learn so much from it, always.”
Moscaliuc hopes her audience will learn from Ali’s work as well, even if he represents a perspective very different from their own.
“I want them to gain an appreciation of Ali’s work, and of aesthetics that might be slightly jarring to our Western sensibilities,” Moscaliuc said. “I hope they will want to head over to the store or library, grab an Ali book, and dive deep into the richly textured worlds of his poems.”