Urdu poetry and the spirit of global progression

Published: September 6, 2010

Faiz Ahmad Faiz at the School of Oriental and African Studies London 1983. Photo by Amarjit Chandan

Pakistan’s poetry, more importantly, its progressive appeal is of immense importance in the global context. An assessment of Suhrawardy’s masterful use of the metrical foot and rhyme and Taufiq Rafat’s lyrical tendencies provides ample justification for this belief. However, there have been other poets in this set of distinguished poets whose works have effectively portrayed the spirit of global progression.

Before addressing the merits and weaknesses of their respective works, it is vital to explicitly state the implications of this global progression. It can be argued that this “global progression” lends the opportunity for poets to integrate their works within the wider framework of progressive poetry. This cannot be achieved through imitatively producing poetry that simply falls into the category of progressive works, although, Haji Qadir Koyi’s Kurdish poems would be a good reference point for Pakistani poets in particular. A great deal of innovation is necessary to produce poetry that is both strong on the evolutionary scale geared to progression, and vividly imaginative.

Having said that, it is apt to explore the works of an eminent Pakistani poet who has not only incorporated the ingenuity of the famed Urdu ghazals into his poem, but has, through his spirited foray into poetry, carved a niche for his immensely thought-provoking works at an international level.

The first of these versifiers is known to all as a terrific political poet whose works reflect a stimulating approach to the political cataclysms of our times. Renowned for his refreshing insight and consummate perception of geopolitics, Mahmood Jamal ranks are arguably equivalent to those of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. His contribution to the spirit of global progression can be is witnessed in the laurels he has received for his politically charged poetry. However, unlike Faiz Ahmed Faiz – whose poetry was brewed with both the political sensitivity and an artistic flair – Mahmood Jamal’s writings appear far too scientific in their entirety. The diversity of style and sensitivity can be viewed in the light of the following verse:

From ‘So Bring the Order for My Execution’ by Faiz Ahmed Faiz translated by Agha Shahid Ali

The suspense that lasts between killers and weapons

as they gamble: who will die and whose turn is next?

That bet has now been place on me.

So bring the order for my execution.

I must see with whose seals the margins are stamped;

recognize the signatures on the scroll.

From ‘What’s it All about?’ by Mahmood Jamal

It is about

Baghdad

Basra

Fallujah

Abu Ghraib

Guantanamo

Perhaps this diversity can be attributed to the plethora of genius inherent in the poems by both Faiz and Mahmood Jamal. What is particularly disconcerting is the extent to which the progressive ideology is illustrated more profoundly in Faiz’s Urdu poetry as against the rich clarity of Jamal’s work in English. This in turn calls into question the endeavors made by Pakistani poets in English to depict the essence of global progression. Are they simply imitating rather than inventively displaying the progressive nature of an allegedly closed society?

taha.kerar

Taha Kehar

A blogger on social events and has previously worked as Assistant Editor for a media magazine. He is currently pursuing Law Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He tweets @TahaKehar.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • A.A. HAJI

    Wasalam

    I am shocked to see this touching piece on our national mother tongue language has not been published in the view of more comments other than this my own. Its a good effort and I enjoyed reading throughougly. Mashallah ke you are blessed with a good hand a goods mindRecommend

  • Teresa Liddell

    Excellent piece on my favourite subject. Many thanks.Recommend