Rooms Are Never Finished: Poems

Rooms Are Never Finished: Poems - Agha Shahid Ali

I don't remember how it was I came to buy this book--perhaps because it was a National Book Award finalist (deservedly so), or maybe it was recommended to me?--but I know it's a shame it took me so long to read it the whole way through.


Gorgeously written, sorrowful but never depressing, and, in fact, rather the opposite, Ali mourns his mother's death and uses it as a kind of lens to explore his (and her) motherland and culture, religion, and history (including its poetic ancestry).


Ali writes in a multitude of forms impressively but never stiffly; it's a marvel. I'm especially impressed with the structure of the book and the variety it gives to the reading experience: there's a larger sequence on bringing his mother's body home (as in, across the Atlantic from America to Kashmir), smaller, individual poems, a sequence of translations, another sequence of a Dante-esque trip to the underworld. The book only becomes more beautiful as it goes on.