Media Roundup: Ghalib: Selected Poems and Letters

Ghalib is the first ample and compact introduction to the Urdu oeuvre of the last great ‘Mughal’ poet of India. It fills a long-felt lacuna, and does so admirably well. The translators have provided all that a reader might need to get closer to the poet and the man, including Ghalib’s own comments on many of his ‘difficult’ verses.

~ C. M. Naim, University of Chicago

In our continued celebration of National Poetry Month, we’re featuring a media roundup of Ghalib: Selected Poems and Letters. In these excerpts, you may find selected works, including two poems, by preeminent Urdu poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, and the introduction by translators of the renowned work, Frances W. Pritchett and Owen T. A. Cornwall.

Enter our National Poetry Month drawing for a chance to win a copy of Ghalib.

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Ghalib was a prominent poet from the Mughal Empire writing in Persian and Urdu. This post includes an excerpt from Pritchett and Cornwall’s introduction to the book and two of their translations of Ghalib’s ghazals.

The Urdu ghazal—Ghalib’s favorite genre, and the crown jewel of Indo-Muslim poetry—consists of a number of independent two-line verses unified only by rhyming elements and meter; these verses are most often recited independently, and each must make its own poetic impact. Since each verse is only fifteen or twenty words long, every word must count, and as many words as possible must count in more than one way. 

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Translation is by necessity a form of interpretation. In the translation of poetry, which allows for so many different gestures toward multiple meanings—this is pain and pleasure. Pain because you are constantly aware of both what is being lost in the translation and what new possibilities are being added, and pleasure because when a word or phrase or poem works in translation, it feels miraculous. This is perhaps even more than usually true when translating the ghazals of Ghalib. 

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