Her poetry collections include Cantata for Jimmy (2004) and Missing in Action and Presumed Dead: Poems (1992). Ismaili coedited the anthology Womanrise (1978), and her work is included in The Heinemann Book of African Women’s Poetry (1995). Composer Joyce Solomon-Moorman scored an opera, Elegies for the Fallen, based on Ismaili’s poetry. It was performed in 2005 at the City University of New York’s Borough of Manhattan Community College. A reading of Ismaili’s own play, Rice Keepers, was staged in 2006 at the American Museum.
Ismaili has taught at Wilkes University and Rutgers University and has served as the associate director of the Pratt Institute Higher Education Opportunity Program and as vice president of Pen & Brush, an arts organization for women. She lives in New York City.