Shazia Hafiz Ramji: Why poetry?
Zeeshan Khan Pathan: Why not? Poetry for me, as Forough Farrokhzad, the famous Iranian poet, once remarked, is like prayer. I think she said… poetry is the same thing for me which religion and prayer might be for religious people. She had said that in her wisdom and I have always felt that after I became a poet, I could no longer pray in the normal ways anymore. I was exiled from all that tradition of Islam even while absorbing it. My prayer became the poem and my hopes were that poetry would live like a chant uttered into the atmosphere. Or like a reading from the Quran, or the Torah, something mystical happens when we read poetry, and it gives me a reason for staying on earth & not becoming a total recluse hiding in my home writing letters to those who are no longer here. Poetry is a door like Blake suggested. It is really the doors of perception for me and for those who love to read literature.
Read the interview in full on Rob McLennan's Periodicities: A Journal of Poetry and Poetics
Zeeshan Khan 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.
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