Anarkali Disco Chali

March 8, 2019

Image Credit: Hubble's New Eyes: Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6303 by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

Sreshtha Sen's ability to honor the formal traditions of both the ghazal and sonnet while bringing both forms to the forefront of contemporary American poetry for a fresh readership is matched only by her ability to navigate and fuse more complex opposites — history vs. present, Urdu vs. English, history vs. mythology, colonialism vs. autonomy.

— Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Poetry Editor

Anarkali Disco Chali

On Tuesday, Ghazal awoke in sheets of English,
broke Urdu into italics: There is just one
tale translated through the “Beloved” in English.

Shahid tried. Lips he once wooed across oceans run
back to sing, clamoring to be free from English.
Like Anarkali, trapped brick by slow brick in fear
exhales (They do not hear. They’ll only hear English.)
the sky trembles on rooftops, you think you hear
stutters but she will never return to English.
When you try to investigate this gape, remember —
more tongues were torn (trying) to conquer her, before English.
Tuesday, Ghazal rose as Faiz’s ghost before censure.
Sreshtha, do not be this lover (you never were), mourning loss in anguish.
Here, write a sonnet instead, crisp and white in its English.


Author's Note: Anarkali was a courtesan believed to have been buried to death between two walls by Akbar for her relationship with the crown prince Jahangir. Title borrowed from a Bollywood Song literally translated to “Anarkali has left for the disco” implying a fusion of the traditional (Anarkali) with the modern (Disco).


Sreshtha Sen

Sreshtha Sen is a poet from Delhi, India, and one of the founding editors of The Shoreline Review, an online journal for and by South Asian poets. She studied Literatures in English at Delhi University and completed her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Her work can be found published or forthcoming in Bitch Media, BOAAT, Breakwater Review, Hyperallergic, The Margins, Meridian, Split Lip Magazine and elsewhere. She was the 2017-18 Readings/Workshops Fellow at Poets & Writers and currently lives and teaches in Las Vegas, where she’s the 2018 BMI Ph.D.