Sunday, January 4, 2009

New York at Daybreak

I'm reading an advance copy of THE VEILED SUITE: The Collected Poems of Agha Shahid Ali, which Norton will publish soon. It's a wonderful book, and it brings Shahid back with such directness and vivacity. It seems so long since his death in 2001, and also as if he's just right around the corner, and will suddenly appear, talking and laughing and charming everyone in sight. Among the many ghazals in the book -- he was known, of course, for bringing a deeper understanding of the form into contemporary American poetry -- there's one I particularly like, in which each couplet ends with the word "rain." I'm placing this little passage here tonight because I've just left New York, for the next three months, and sitting here at the kitchen table of a rented house in Palo Alto, Shahid's evocation of a particular kind of New York solitude seems especially poignant:

New York belongs at daybreak to only me, just me --
to make this claim Memory's brought even the rain.


Andrew Shields said...

From my rented house in Basel, the phrase "kitchen table of a rented house in Palo Alto" makes me wax sentimental (says this old PA boy). Have a good time there! Are you teaching at Stanford this term?

Edward Byrne said...

It is still hard to believe Shahid's tremendous spirit has been gone so long. I look forward to reading this new book, hoping it will bring back that wonderfully lively voice and enthusiastic personality of his I hold fondly in my memories.