• Associate Professor of Creative Writing; Comparative Literature


  • BA, SUNY at Albany, 1993
  • MA, SUNY at Albany, 1995
  • MFA, New York University, 2001


Kazim Ali is the author of four books of poetry, including The Far Mosque (Alice James Books), The Fortieth Day (BOA Editions), the cross-genre poetic memoir Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities and Sky Ward (both from Wesleyan University Press) that won the Ohiona Award in Poetry, two novels Quinn’s Passage (BlazeVox Books), named one of the Best Books of 2005 by Chronogram, and The Disappearance of Seth (Etruscan Press) and two volumes of nonfiction, Orange Alert: Essays on Poetry, Art and the Architecture of Silence (University of Michigan Press) and Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice (Tupelo Press). He has translated three volumes, L’Amour, a novel by Marguerite Duras (Open Letter) and Water’s Footfall (Omnidawn) and Oasis of Now: Selected Poems (BOA Editions) both by Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri.

Ali's poetry has appeared in many national journals including American Poetry ReviewBoston Review,Barrow StreetjubilatHayden's Ferry ReviewThe Iowa ReviewColorado Review, and New Orleans Review. An essay on his work by Meena Alexander appeared in American Poet. Ali’s essays on poetry and poetics have appeared widely, and from 2007-2009 he wrote a regular column for American Poetry Review

Ali cofounded the independent press Nightboat Books in 2003, and served as its publisher from 2004-2007. Under his leadership, Nightboat Books published numerous critically acclaimed books, including Radical Love: 5 Novels by Fanny Howe; The Truant Lover by Juliet Patterson; Envelope of Night: Selected and Uncollected Poems 1966-1990 by Michael Burkard; and a reissue of Dura by Myung Mi Kim. He continues to serve as an editor with the press.

He is coeditor of both the Poets on Poetry Series and the Under Discussion Series, both housed at the University of Michigan Press. He also serves as associate editor of the literary journal FIELD.

In addition to his work at Oberlin College, Ali has also been a visiting writer or faculty member at various retreats including the Frost Place Festival of Poetry, the Kundiman Retreat for Asian American Poets, the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, and in such MFA programs as Naropa University, Antioch University Los Angeles, Murray State University, University of Southern Maine, and the University of Michigan.






  • Kazim Ali Publishes Essay

    July 17, 2018

    Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature Kazim Ali's essay,  "Jerusalem Syndrome: A Commentary on 'If Infinite Worlds, Infinite Centers' by Margaret Cavendish," will appear in the fall issue of the Ben Jonson Journal.

  • Kazim Ali Writes Collection of Poetry

    March 8, 2018

    Kazim Ali, associate professor of creative writing and comparative literature, has written a collection of poetry, Inquisition, released from Wesleyan University Press. Read the Publishers Weekly review.

  • Kazim Ali's Novel Listed as One of the Best of 2017

    December 11, 2017

    Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature Kazim Ali’s novel The Secret Room was named by Entropy Magazine as one of the best fiction books of 2017.

  • Kazim Ali Releases Book

    December 11, 2017

    Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature Kazim Ali will release in January 2018 a new book, Silver Road: Essays, Maps, and Calligraphies, published by Tupelo Press. The cross-genre book includes diary fragments, essays, lyric prose "maps," and verse fragments, in which Ali explores quantum physics, sixth-century Chola Empire sculptures, the challenges of literary translation and of climate change, and destruction of a priceless set of handmade flutes by airport security. The book has received acclaim from Publishers Weekly.

  • Kazim Ali Publishes Book

    October 26, 2015

    Kazim Ali, director and associate professor of creative writing and associate professor of comparative literature, has published a new book: Resident Alien: On Border-crossing and the Undocumented Divine (University of Michigan Press).

    Of the book, the Press says, "Kazim Ali uses a range of subjects—the politics of checkpoints at international borders; difficulties in translation; collaborations between poets and choreographers; and connections between poetry and landscape, or between biotechnology and the human body—to situate the individual human body into a larger global context, with all of its political and social implications. He finds in the quality of ecstatic utterance his passport to regions where reason and logic fail and the only knowledge is instinctual, in physical existence and breath. This collection includes Ali’s essays on topics such as Anne Carson’s translations of Euripides; the poetry and politics of Mahmoud Darwish; Josey Foo’s poetry/dance collaborations with choreographer Leah Stein; Olga Broumas’ collaboration with T. Begley; Jorie Graham’s complication of Kenneth Goldsmith’s theories; the postmodern spirituality of the 14th century Kashmiri mystic poet Lalla; translations of Homer, Mandelstam, Sappho, and Hafez; as well as the poet Reetika Vazirani’s practice of yoga.”

    See more on this University of Michigan Press webpage.

  • Kazim Ali Lectures, Reads His Poetry

    March 9, 2015

    Kazim Ali, director of the creative writing program and associate professor of creative writing and comparative literature, will be lecturing and reading his poetry at Interlochen Academy; Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Sonoma State University; San Jose State University; the Ohio State Poetry Out Loud Championships; the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Conference; and the Ohioana State Library Literary Festival.

    His poems will soon be appearing the New England Review, Colorado Review, Iowa Review, and Volt. His essay, "The Killer Will Remain Free: On Pat Parker and the Poetics of Madness," is forthcoming in the Journal of Lesbian Studies. Other essays on translation and pedagogy will soon appear on the website VOLTA.

  • Kazim Ali's Book Available

    February 20, 2015

    The book Wind Instrument by Kazim Ali, director of the creative writing program and associate professor of creative writing and comparative literature, is now available from Spork Press. Purchase the book on the Spork Press website.

  • Kazim Ali's Essay Included in Anthology

    February 13, 2015

    "What's American About American Poetry," an essay by Kazim Ali, associate professor and director of creative writing, has been included in the new anthology A Sense of Regard: Essays on Poetry and Race. The essay is on the subject of contemporary Indigenous American writing.

  • Kazim Ali, Jafar Mahallati Nominated for Translation Award

    October 1, 2014

    The Oasis of Now, a collection of poems composed by the celebrated Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri, was selected as a finalist at Rochester International Literary Translation Initiative Award 2014. The works were translated from Persian by Kazim Ali, associate professor and director of the creative writing department, and Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, Oberlin’s presidential scholar of Islam. Oasis of Now is a nominee for the $5,000 translation award given to a book that has been translated for the first time into English.

  • Kazim Ali and Jafar Mahallati Recognized for Translation

    April 30, 2014

    Kazim Ali, associate professor of creative writing, and Jafar Mahallati, presidential scholar of Islam, were named as finalists for the Best Translated Book of Poetry given by the, University of Rochester’s Three Percent Initiative for their translation of Sohrab Sepheri’s The Oasis of Now. Mahallati presented and read from Sepehri on Wednesday April 23 at the Lakewood Public Library, while Ali will be giving a reading at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on May 11.

  • Kazim Ali Blogs, Is Interviewed

    January 23, 2014

    Three poems from Sky Ward, Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature Kazim Ali’s newest poetry collection, were featured in THEthe Poetry’s Poem(s) of the Week section in December 2013. The poetics blog also featured an interview with Ali conducted by Jorge Rodriguez-Miralles. During January, Ali is the featured blogger on the Poetry Foundation’s blog, Harriet.