Kohl & Chalk
These poems ring with clarity, restraint and humanity. My admiration for Shadab Zeest Hashmi’s poetry continues to grow.
— Sam Hamill
Capacious, crafted, and lyrical, not just able to move from the domestic and the sensual to the political, but showing us the relationship between these: the poems in Kohl and Chalk, to quote from “Notes for my Husband,” “weep in both languages.” We are told in “Bilingual” that a butcher selling tongues fills the speaker’s “greedy mouth/ with two/ half-tongues,” although for readers Shadab Zeest Hashmi is not a poet of half-measures, but rather one who full-throatedly sings, as she puts it, “the space between news and song.”
— Lisa Steinman Author of Carslaw’s Sequences, Invitation to Poetry and others
Kohl and Chalk is at once breathtaking and invigorating. The sensuality of almonds, cardamom, lapis lazuli, and Chantilly lace is undergirded by a generous cosmopolitanism. Aubades, ghazals, windows, and columbine are connective tissue binding this poet to the late great Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali. Yet Hashmi’s bilingual voice is entirely her own, echoing through the Hindu Kush, Lahore, and an earlier Pakistan of the Jinnah family, also taking in India, Afghanistan, Thailand, the US, and Paris. In the words of the poet, ‘my soul mercuries and lifts itself’ in the presence of such virtuosity and heart.
— Claire Chambers Editor of British Muslim Fictions
In her first collection Baker of Tarifa, a contemplation of the symbiotic Euro-Arab culture of Andalusia and its reverberations across the centuries, Shadab Zeest Hashmi revealed a bold and original voice with an ability to meld cultures and poetic forms with great skill. In Kohl and Chalk, she takes this further with her accomplished ghazals – a poetic form central to Urdu literature and song. This is a truly exciting collection, and Hashmi is clearly a poet to watch.
— Muneeza Shamsie
In a collection of elegant lyric voices, Pakistani-American poet Shadab Zeest Hashmi articulates her prayer for equanimity, her prayer for peace.
— Sandra Alcosser Author of Except by Nature and A Fish to Feed All Hunger
Powerful, courageous, gentle, and entertaining at once, these poems carry the echoes of continents— you will see “a staircase, each step a NO.” You will dip your hands in henna, and hesitate to leave the scent of green guava. You will hear, “listen I am a paper kite in your hands,” and for an instant become a child again on a windy day. And here is a necessary whisper as you read these magical poems: whatever you do, be careful not to step on the iguana that “sleeps along the entire length of the clothesline.”
— Ibtisam Barakat Author of Tasting the Sky, a Palestinian Childhood