Book of Poems ‘Veeni Likhia Din’ by Mahmood Awan

Mahmood Awan, a young poet, recently published his second book of poems ‘Veeni Likhia Din’ (a day etched on the wrist). Knowing his background a little may help the readers to understand the milieu of his poems. He was born in the Khushab area of the Punjab and is now settled in Dublin, Ireland. He like most expat poets and artists exists at two levels; the real and the imaginative. For a poet uprooted from his ancestral land and planted on a foreign soil what is real now was once imaginative and what is imaginative now was once real. That is not to say that the real and the imaginative do not merge. The merging of real and imaginative is in fact what creates a space pregnant with mysterious disorientation, making the poetic utterance possible.

Mahmood’s poetry is a product of an age of ever increasing intermingling of people through migration, forced or self imposed. In his poetry what is immediate looks intangible and what is removed appears as something tangible. An existential tangle of what is absently present and presently absent is an underlying current of Mahmood’s poems.

“After office hours I come home and see your presence seated in the sofa on my right, in silence/relentless rain outside does not let the evening sink into me/breath refuses to unfold the bygone season and I cry without looking on my right/ dear darling, no one leaves the way you leave or perhaps you do not leave at all but you are not here with me either”. Mahmood though modern in his sensibility does not sound modernistic. Repeated imagery in some of his poems makes them lose their intensity. One gets good vibes that he carries the poetic tradition forward without being traditional.

‘Pakistani zubanan’ (Pakistani languages) is a book comprising a selection of articles compiled by Parveen Malik, a known short story writer, and published by Pakistan Punjabi Adabi Board. It discusses and analyses various issues faced by Pakistani languages in an historical context. The list of the authors include some illustrious names like Asif Khan, Dr Ghulam Ali Alana, Sardar Mohammad Khan, Ainu l Haq Faridkoti, Sharif Kunjahi, Safdar Mir, Qazi Jawed, Ilyas Ishqi and Saif ur Rehman Dar. The book is not boring at all as is usually the case with research papers. The scholars discuss wide ranging issues, which have bearing on our socio political life because the question of language in a multilingual society affects the people in their day today life. Most of the Pakistani languages and dialects are in a state of total neglect as a consequence of ideologically driven and politically motivated language policy of the state. The state declares Urdu the national language with the manifest intension of creating a sense of national unity, but uses English as the language of officialdom in the name of convenience. Pakistani languages are treated as another item of cultural decor. Such a blinkered vision of the state has resulted in a denial of the rights of the languages spoken by the people of Pakistan. The scholars in this book with their insightful analyses suggest the ways, which can help the society and the state to evolve a rational language policy ensuring that the flourishing of diverse languages used by the people becomes a source of our national richness.

Zubair Ahmed is a good short story writer and poet. ‘Sadd’ (ballad/call) is his second book of poetry. His poems tend to create an atmosphere of elusive concreteness and palpable abstraction. He expresses his creative experience with an intention to give it fresh poetic meanings. But the meanings tend to touch the mind rather than the senses. Concern to create meaning out of everything poetic leads at times to losing spontaneity and sensuality. Zubair’s ideological framework restrains his emotion and passion. In his short stories he abstains from any such self restraining measure that makes them progress with ease. His poems encompass diverse experience; existential and social. He is at his best when he jettisons his ideological baggage allowing his verse to move lightly at a natural pace. Let us share one of his poems “Visiting Thandiani (a hill resort close to Abbottabad)”: We arrive there at noon/a cloud appears at our door, quietly chasing the visitors /why don’t you get soaked? You leave being as dry as when you come/a rustic carrying a canister of water tied to a bamboo smiles/ nobody asks him where does he fetch the water from, and how he manages to walk straight with his rickety legs/ no one is curious to know from where does the cloud come and where it goes evaporating/everything is as quiet as the cloud, the visitors and the trees/the place looks like a primeval season lost by man”.

Zubair’s problem seems to be the language. His notion of poetic idiom becomes a self created hurdle. If the creative sweat that goes into composing a poem makes it look laboured, you end up with what looks like a forced expression. Zubair tries to blend his poetic language with western dialect and Seraiki that sounds odd and fabricated at times. Of course one can create an idiom with borrowings from different dialects of the Punjab as has been the practice with our classical poets but for that one must have not only a thorough understanding of them but also know intuitively what jells and what doesn’t. He can create even better poetry with what comes to him as his natural language.


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