FESTIVAL:The art of poetry

Published February 28, 2016

URDU has a long tradition of poetry founded by the classical era poets who experimented with their creativity in various genres. Among these forms, the ghazal dominated all other genres in both aesthetic expression and popularity. However, in recent times, the nazm has been claiming its due share of interest. Hence, a session titled ‘Urdu Nazm ki Rawayat’ was included in the LLF programme, moderated by Syed Nomanul Haq. The panellists included two of the most celebrated Urdu poets, Zehra Nigah and Kishwar Naheed.

Haq started the discussion by differentiating between ghazal and nazm in the following words: “Ghazal takes the imagination of the audience higher than the heavens while nazm establishes a firm connection with the mundaneness of the world.” Nigah contributed to the discussion by stating that the modern nazm in Urdu is not a recent phenomenon.

It started with Muhammad Hussain Azad and Altaf Hussain Hali. In his ‘Musaddis’, Hali did not start with the verses of hamd, naat, or manqabat, thus defying the age-old tradition of Urdu poets and laying the foundations of the modern nazm. According to Nigah, poetry is not an easy task; one has to select words very carefully and stitch them into the fabric of one’s thoughts quite elegantly. This selection of words is strictly monitored by the rules of ghazal writing, stated Nigah. Not a single space in the verses of a ghazal can be wasted. However, the canvass of a nazm is very broad. The poet has the liberty to build its structure the way she wants.

Naheed added the comment that it is very difficult to compose nasri nazm because one tends to lose the poetic aesthetics since there are no literary “shackles” to bind the imaginative expression of the poet. The nazms of Iqbal, Faiz, and Rashid were mentioned by both the panellists as great examples of Urdu poems. In the end, Nigah and Naheed recited some of their poems for the audience.

The panel discussion on Mir Taqi Mir held on the second day of LLF was probably the most crowded session among not only the sessions on Urdu literature but other sessions as well. It was beautifuly moderated by Amjad Islam Amjad who started the discussion by ascribing three centuries of Urdu literature to three poets: the 18th century to Mir, the 19th century to Ghalib, and the 20th century to Iqbal.

C.M. Naim emphasised the fact that we have only focused on Mir’s ghazals and have neglected his other creations. This has created a deficit in our understanding of the luminary. Aitzaz Ahsan briefly analysed the political and historical environment in which Mir was born and how it affected his personality as well as his poetry. He stated that the tragic history of Delhi during that era is reflected in the melancholy that is ascribed to the poetry of Mir. Khurshid Rizvi highlighted the fact that Mir did not write in the language of the elite, which was highly Persianised Urdu, but in simple diction easily understood by the masses. Nigah expressed surprise at the fact that Mir criticised both the government and the religious institutions of his time, however, he was neither arrested nor were any fatwas issued against him.

This is the tolerance that we once had in our society and that we need to spread throughout our motherland today.

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