Shadab Zeest Hashmi’s work engages with world history, cultures of encounter, aesthetics, the craft of poetry and the life of the spirit. Her poems, lyric essays, craft essays, critical works on the Ghazal form, essays on Sufi Poetics, translations, reviews and interviews appear in literary publications and online platforms worldwide. Her latest work, published over the past few years as poem sequences and essays in journals, is centered on the history of the Silk Road. This work is an ongoing exploration of material culture, war, spirituality, commerce and syncretic aesthetics of the various cultures along the ancient trade route connecting diverse regions between Asia, Africa and Europe. The first book in her Silk Road trilogy is due out in 2025 from Kaya Press.
Besides two poetry collections, Zeest Hashmi has authored a volume of prose and poetry titled Ghazal Cosmopolitan which has been praised by Marilyn Hacker as “a marvelous interweaving of poetry, scholarship, literary criticism and memoir.” Her latest book is Comb, a hybrid memoir about growing up in Peshawar, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, during the Soviet war. Comb is a rumination on borders of all kinds, and the larger historical, literary and cultural encounters across the Silk Road, of which Peshawar was a significant outpost. Selected as the Best Hybrid Book (2019) by Julia Bouwsma, Comb is, in the words of Ilya Kaminsky “a stunning book of motherhood” in which “history is seen again from the eye of a lyric poet.”
Zeest Hashmi’s earlier collection of poems Kohl and Chalk is a meditation on selfhood as a woman, on split identities as a diaspora poet contending with the legacy of colonialism and the unceasing wars of the present. Baker of Tarifa, her first book, is a series of poems covering the near-millennium of Muslim rule in Spain (711-1492) known as Al-Andalus, characterized as a legend of peaceful coexistence or la Convivencia that brought together three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe and the three Abrahamic faiths in harmony. Baker of Tarifa retraces the intermittent periods of confluence and conflict within this history, in narrative and lyric poems and historical notes. Zeest Hashmi’s research on the Andalusi civilization has also appeared in the form of essays published in journals such as the Journal of Postcolonial Studies (Routledge), panel presentations for MACFEST (UK), Lahore Literary Festival (Pakistan), AWP (Florida), Faith in Literature Festival (North Carolina), The Children’s Museum Special Exhibit on Muslim Civilization (Chicago). Her writings on the topic of Al Andalus are frequently featured in 3 Quarks Daily, the online publication for which she has been a columnist since 2013.
Originally from Pakistan, Zeest Hashmi has resided in San Diego, California most of her life, raising a family and working as a practicing poet. She has been involved in the local San Diego writing community in various capacities, most notably as the editor of the Magee Park Poets Anthology and the curator of the National Poetry Month program at Carlsbad City Library. She has participated as a contest judge for Border Voices and California Poetry Out Loud, and has served as the guest editor for A Year in Ink (San Diego Writers Ink), and as a co-editor for The Poetry Conspiracy.
She has taught poetry workshops locally and in various cities in the US and other places, and has presented her own work in literary festivals, museums, academic institutes, and conferences across the US, as well as in Turkey, UK, Spain, Kirgizstan, Pakistan and Mexico.