Poetry still happens though its takers have considerably dwindled in our age driven by pragmatism which is grist to the mill of global capitalism that holds a deceptive vision of opulent material life for those who can ‘make it’. And deceitful propaganda through osmosis comes to be accepted as an article of faith that every one of us can ‘make it’. But can every one of us make it in a society based on seemingly inerasable distinctions of economic classes and social hierarchy? Specious arguments try to convince us, successfully to a very large extent, that rationality and reasoning are supreme contemporary values that must govern our life, individual and collective. Other things such as imagination and intuition are vestiges of the past and thus anachronistic. Imagination and intuition are in fact impediment in the way of achieving comforts modern life offers. Life is worth living only if it is governed by what is described as rationality and reasoning. Things such as imagination and intuition which are a fountainhead of poetry are now a dead weight that needs to be jettisoned. But poets, an incorrigibly frenzied lot, stubbornly refuse to die or fade away. But sadly the bulk of poetry coming from so many poets is so banal that it is something worse than the worst. You can get crushed under loads of bad verses. It’s like a visitation of plague. That’s why when you come across a bad poet; you want to “kill him for his bad verses”.
No doubt good poetry has always been a rarity and still is. It’s like a serendipitous gift of vigorous whisperings in a world littered with cacophonous wreckage. Such is Mahmood Awan’s poetry we find in his new book “Sejal” published by Sanjh Publications, Lahore.
He is an expat settled in Dublin and has specialization in electrical engineering and information technology. Sounds unusual? Remember Chekhov? He was a physician. An expat poet invariably lives in two uniquely different worlds; real and imaginative which keep interchanging. The ancestral land that he leaves and the new land he adopts, are significantly apart. At an existential level he feels he doesn’t belong where he actually lives and doesn’t live where he actually belongs. The choice of language he employs for expression poignantly exposes the paradox; his mother language cannot capture the immediate experience of his adopted home and acquired language cannot express subconsciously transmitted experience of his ancestral homeland.
Mahmood’s poems come across as a highly creative endeavor to discover the imaginative buried beneath the mundanity of the real and the real that lies hidden in apparent opaqueness of the imaginative. At times both the elements come together to create a landscape that has his epiphanic moments as well as wreckage of his dreams. Two themes stand out in the book in question: celebration of intense love and remembrances of things which seemingly are colloquial and personal.
Mahmood’s love poems thankfully are free of impotent sense of loss and saccharine lyricism which mark the bulk of what is churned out in the name of love poetry. The experience of overwhelmingly stormy moments of intimacy in his love poems takes you to the unknown known and the known unknown in the realm of ever unpredictable man woman relationship.
“You now tie me with your loose hair and drag me on the roads paved with separation / Let my peeled off skin turn into tar/ Let my dreams freeze in the chilly wind of winter/ let the night lose its laughs and let the moon flow like water into the well of sky / Let the words dangle from the eyes, stunned/ Let the lips be parched/ Let the screen go black/ Let the season that dances under the sprinkler, return to the earth/ Let all this happen till I believe that I am not lost to you but to myself”.
There are quite a few poems which deal with the remembrances of the things past. The poet has the vigour that doesn’t make him limpet to the past, romance filled and irretrievable. The evocation of what happened at different points of time in poet’s life opens a way to celebrating everyday experiences as markers of human identity based on the particular and the concrete. Memories bereft of nostalgia emerge as joie de vivre that inspires future how uncertain it may be.
Mahmood is a dynamic poet who has a voice which is distinctly his own. Nimiety of passion running through his poems makes them full of aesthetic and cultural joy.
Krishna Sobhti is a celebrated Hindi fiction writer. She is not a prolific author but certainly has prolific imagination. Her strength is intellectual incisiveness that visibly permeates her creative writings which have put her on a high literary pedestal. One of her novellas “Mittro, Mar Jaani”, translated by Jawed Boota into Punjabi, has been published by Pakistan Punjabi Adbi Board, Lahore. It’s a story of a traditional joint family that we can find anywhere in India or Pakistan. It is in fact a story of women of a family that has all the trappings of normal middle class life. In other words, conformism is the glue that binds the family members comprising aged parents, their sons and daughters-in-law who have come from diverse backgrounds. But unexpectedly things start going haywire when one young wife, not from a very reputable background, gradually but steadily comes to a point where she feels compelled to challenge the norms and flout the conventions. Sounds clichйd view of middle class? Apparently yes. But the psycho-social details Sobhti weaves in the story create magic.
US-based Jawed Boota is an excellent translator. He has deep understanding of Hindi and his command over Punjabi language is flawless. His translations of a selection of Hindi short stories and the first volume of Yashpal’s Hindi novel “Jutha Sach” have already been published. Punjabi readers are rightly full of accolades for his work. – firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2017