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Zeeshan Khan Pathan

Zeeshan Pathan attended Washington University in Saint Louis as a Kenneth E. Hudson Scholar where he studied poetry with Mary Jo Bang, Carl Phillips, and Fatemeh Keshavarz. He speaks several languages and translates from Urdu, Turkish, & Persian. At Columbia University, he received a fellowship to study poetry at the graduate level and he completed his M.F.A. under Lucie Brock-Broido. Zeeshan is interested in world literature and literary theory, the poetry of the Middle East and India, and he also writes short fiction. His poetry has been featured in Tarpaulin Sky Press Magazine and poems are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, in an anthology of contemporary American Muslim writings by Red Hen Press, and in other journals.

Zeeshan Khan Pathan
Photo Courtesy of Burak Paçacıoğlu, Photographer


The Minister of Disturbances

March 2020

Publication Date:

About the Book

In his startling debut, The Minister of Disturbances, Zeeshan Pathan interrogates and subverts the calcified notions of identity (whether Islamic or American or human), the rules of citizenship, & the idea of the nation state. Unafraid of blending the lyrical and the political, he dramatizes the inner journey of the poet as his speakers confront world events including global climate change, the Afghan and Iraq wars, political conflicts from Egypt to India, American imperialism, the idea of the surveillance state, the aftermath of global terrorism, medical illness, displacement and exile. In love with Lorca and Thomas James, his poems seamlessly move from the romantic to the devastating. The weather of these poems is bleak and ridden with the pain of expulsion & dislocation. Language, for Pathan, is a means to restoration and reclamation but the speakers never fully arrive at complete healing and perhaps, that is the power of the collection. There is beauty and truth here, as Keats had once famously intimated, all great poetry should have. And not simply pearls of beautiful lies.

The Minister of Disturbances confronts the reader with poems that are both tender and terrifying. Though the poet is interested in beauty and in love with poets like Shelley and Hannah Weiner, “with [his] own rampant mouth”, he tells the story of exile, alienation, and hauntingly describes the innumerable moments of a life lived in the shadows of faraway American wars and the resulting global tumult from the eyes of an American Muslim. Zeeshan Pathan was born in Memphis, Tennessee & he has lived in several major American cities including New York City. In 2016, he moved to Istanbul several months before the advent of the Trump Presidency—having completed his graduate studies at Columbia University. In poem after poem, he seeks a language which can capture the horror of our times but never once forgets that his tongue “is stained by the carnivorous ink of history.”  This necessary collection is at once lyrical as much as it is rampant with ravishment and mournful of irrefutable ruptures.


From a place where trees still speak to each other outside the prison cell, where gardens are manacled, where poems soar from a myth of desire to “the whiff of a car bomb,” these poems sing. They sing to us of exile from motherland, mother tongue, and mother, sing in the tradition of Vallejo and Lorca, of split identity, erotic impalement, and a reality that can only be rendered by surrealism. These are poems written from the boundless in-between, between "the excruciation of now and the myths," "between two lines of the same poem written in the time of the Romanovs,” between history and hallucination. This is a book written from unquenchable longing with a full awareness of the lateness of the hour “as the world folds over like a paper plane.” They are the poems my soul needs.

—Diane Seuss, author of Four-Legged Girl and Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl

In these brilliantly edgy poems, a cluster bomb and a scalpel in the hand of a doctor cutting into a skull both live next door to beauty’s ‘flutter of red phoenixes.’ They exist alongside the ‘bloody flowerbeds’ of Eros. They reside inside language that lies like a ‘brontosaurus wincing in his fossil grave.’ The entire world is here, and it’s our world. And, yes, it is a ravished world, but there is a note of defiance in these poems that breathes hope back into the core of it. Behind each poem there is a voice that keeps telling us to trust in the fact that even if the world seems to be irrevocably broken, poetry allows the ‘rampant mouth’ to make something amazing from it.

—Mary Jo Bang, author of Elegy and The Last Two Seconds

Brilliantly inventive and nearly selfless, The Minister of Disturbancesbraids the “khaki streets” of occupied cities with “all the nightingales in Persia” in these prismatic poems, “glances of blond daisies” mingling with the “whoosh of a cruise missile.” Urgency weds timelessness in Zeeshan Khan Pathan’s visions, as he unearths ravishing beauties of daily life from the destruction of ancient places, as his extinction elegies reach his own beloveds. His voice is a ministering presence in these compassionate, radiant poems. An astonishing debut.

—Paula Bohince, author of The Children and Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods

When a poet threatens to walk in my galaxy, I wait with expectation! Zeeshan Khan Pathan's The Minister of Disturbances is one of the truly great books of poetry today. Zeeshan has no fear of relaying the truth about the way we murder and love, sometimes in the same day.

—CA Conrad, author of While Standing in Line for Death

Federico García Lorca is one of the tutelary spirits to this passionately lyrical and deeply probing book of disturbances and dispossessions, of longing, quest and exile, a lost mother tongue, “a cloudburst of woe,” a beauty reclaimed.

—Edward Hirsch, president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation

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About the Book


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