Agha Shahid Ali was born in New Delhi on February 4, 1949. He grew up Muslim in Kashmir, and was later educated at the University of Kashmir, Srinagar, and University of Delhi. He earned a PhD in English from Pennsylvania State University in 1984, and an MFA from the University of Arizona in 1985.
Ali’s poetry collections include Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals (W. W. Norton, 2003); Rooms Are Never Finished (W. W. Norton, 2002), a National Book Award finalist; The Country Without a Post Office: Poems 1991–1995 (Ravi Dayal, 1997; W. W. Norton, 1998); The Beloved Witness: Selected Poems (Viking, 1992); A Nostalgist’s Map of America (W. W. Norton, 1991); A Walk Through the Yellow Pages (SUN/gemini Press, 1987); The Half-Inch Himalayas (Wesleyan University Press, 1987); In Memory of Begum Akhtar and Other Poems (Writers Workshop, 1979); and Bone Sculpture (Writers Workshop, 1972). He is also the author of T. S. Eliot as Editor (UMI Research Press, 1986); translator of The Rebel’s Silhouette: Selected Poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Peregrine Smith Books, 1991); and editor of Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English (Wesleyan University Press, 2000).
Ali received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation and was awarded a Pushcart Prize. He held teaching positions at the University of Delhi, Penn State, SUNY Binghamton, Princeton University, Hamilton College, Baruch College, University of Utah, and Warren Wilson College. Agha Shahid Ali died on December 8, 2001.