Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Shadab Zeest Hashmi


Online Reviews

“Part personal meditation, part history, part literary analysis, part anthology, this book gives us back the layers of context that are often missing from ghazals in English. Along the way, Hashmi traces the ghazal’s movement from Arabic, Persian and Urdu to German, Spanish and English; unpacks some of the intricacies of the form, giving us a nuanced template for its adaptation into English; and performs insightful readings of some wonderful English-language ghazals. Bonuses include a recipe for “Mughal Summer Sherbet”; a tour of bazaars from Peshawar to Istanbul; and a section exploring the qasida, a form that can be called the “parent form” to the ghazal, and one that similarly originates in pre-modern Arabia. “

Rhino Magazine (Review of Ghazal Cosmopolitan by Chloe Martinez)


“Throughout the book, Hashmi’s lyrical language is sensual and present. Even when stepping out of the personal into the historical, her descriptions remain visceral, grounded in the senses. In her retelling of an old Urdu tale, a jinni is lured into the human world by the “profound visual and sonic beauty of Urdu, its earthy footfall and lyric leaps,” and by the way a ghazal’s couplets “combine the sensibilities of parched deserts and spectacular night skies, rugged mountains, finely cultivated gardens, steppes, monsoons—the ink bearing the musk of many lands.” With her poetic language, she permeates Urdu, a language I don’t speak or read, with a scent and a song I can’t help but long for in my own body, a yearning to experience firsthand the way Urdu “hangs like pollen.”

World Literature Today (Review of Ghazal Cosmopolitan by Erin Rodoni)


“By reminding us of what was coming to an end when Spain began persecuting the innocent and exiling its Arab community, by pausing to think of the gifts of the men mentioned, the poem takes on a didactic element that I welcome. She presents an elemental poetry with exact imagery: “Groves cut down / to feed a furnace / with unfaithful / innocents.” Her language is exacting while being also rich with assonance and alliteration.”

On the Seawall (Review of Baker of Tarifa by Sam Hamill)


“Comb invites us to reflect on our own intricacies, and the roads that have come together to create us. Zeest Hashmi—whose takhallus, or pen name, is Zeest, life!—how alive her language, how each unraveling brings us back to the stardust of our creation! In these pages, each artifact and phenomenon is a remnant of the past, a manifestation of the present, and holds the future in its substance.”

World Literature Today (Review of Comb by Adeeba Shahid Talukder)


“So the bride, that most vulnerable, conflicted and voiceless persona in the culture–comprised wholly of “image” not “vision,” and surface, not depth– make-believes, at the moment of marriage and impending departure, that her hometown will fall apart without her. In imagining her as more than the shadow she actually is, I challenge her powerlessness. In the “no-man’s land” between two families, this woman begins to assemble herself as an entity: it’s the birth of a voice, a consciousness, a materfamilias. Unlike the typical notion of feminism, this ideal has less to do with hostility towards tradition or the male-dominated culture, more with mercy, creativity and self-determination– a spirit to undo the terrible knots with perseverance and a larger-than-life imagination. What is axed is not male influence but violence in all forms, including self-sabotage. This bride claims a pivotal role, and takes ownership of her heritage, of the wounds and the healing. For me, this persona is a metaphor for identity in the phase of Pakistan’s history I’ve found myself in–the raw drama of an emerging identity, a country wedged between.”

Huffington Post (Author Statement of Kohl and Chalk by Shadab Zeest Hashmi)


“In these glimpses into memory, the image of the comb is recurrent and carries several meanings. It is an heirloom—a relic of the past and a sign of how we carry it within us. It is an adornment and a symbol of beauty, that concept which is both exaltment and burden. It is also an instrument we use to untangle the mind and bring rest to the jaan-e-shoriidah, the restless spirit. “

Rhino Poetry (Review of Comb by Adeeba Shahid Talukder)