One moment please...
Decentering the Self: The Art of the Ghazal

This is a free program as part of Literary Cleveland's Amplify Projects series.


Agha Shahid Ali writes that, "For me, ghazals are first and foremost about my feelings, whether from the distant past or from yesterday, that I need to put into a form with special meaning to me. I want to contain those feelings in a singular way, where I can revisit them again and again.”

Often, the ghazal revolves around a yearning and longing for what ostensibly appears to be the ‘beloved’, but there is a larger, political objective being articulated through romantic language. The ghazal can be sly because it is necessarily responding to oppressive and authoritarian structures in metaphors which can be interpreted in multiple ways. Furthermore, deviations within the form of the ghazal can even be seen as odes to the beloved–there is nothing more perfect than the beloved, and so a deliberate reworking of the structure reflects a kind of decentering of the self.

In this workshop, we will first set out to ask ourselves: what is the ghazal? What are some words and ideas we associate with this poetic form? By sifting through the history of the ghazal and its contemporary iterations in English, we can chart a rich tradition that has always been defined by qualities of liberation and subversion. We will read essays and ghazals by Kazim Ali, Agha Shahid Ali, Shadab Zeest Hashmi, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Fatimah Asghar and Adrienne Rich. Through discussions of land and culture, we will embark on the idea that if the ghazal decenters the poet/self, it can also destabilize the anthropocentric.

Our aim will be to figure out what the ghazal can mean to us in the current political landscape to not only master a complex poetic form, but also think about how art can be used as a tool of resistance.

Instructor: Maham Khan is a poet and Fulbright scholar currently pursuing a PhD in English literature at Kent State University. Her work has appeared inThe Aleph ReviewJaggery LitSomewhere in PakistanInnisfree Poetry Journal, and Behenchara Magazine, among others. She is also the co-editor of The Missing Slate, a co-researcher on a participatory research project, Editing Women: Co-Investigating Autonomy and Sustainability in Pakistan’s Contemporary Literary Landscape (2022), as well as one of the founding members of the Pakistan Association for Women Publishers and Editors. She lives in Pakistan and Ohio.


Details: Decentering the Self: The Art of the Ghazal takes place Saturdays March 11, 18, and 25 from 10:00am-12:00pm online remotely via Zoom. There will also be an optional in-person meetup scheduled for April 1.

Genre: Poetry

Level: All experience levels welcome.

Format: Craft and generative workshop with reading and writing inside and outside class.

Location: This class takes place online remotely via Zoom.

Size: Limited to 15 participants.

Contact Information - Required

First Name
Last Name




Address Line 1
Address Line 2
ZIP/Postal Code
Voluntary Demographic Information
NEW: As part of our ongoing efforts to make programs and classes more inclusive and accessible, we are now collecting voluntary demographic information during the registration process. The following information is entirely voluntary and will remain anonymous. It will only be used in aggregate to assess and improve services and inclusive practices to ensure we are serving our entire community equitably. Thank you!

(Select one or more)