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Akhtar Usman’s poetry analyzed

August 11, 2003

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 10: Critical evaluation of a piece of writing, based purely on literary standards, has been one of the proud traditions of Halqa-i-Arbab-i-Zauq since its inception.

And when the Islamabad Halqa made poet and critic Akhtar Usman its Adab Sitara (literary star) on Saturday evening, and discussed his poetry and critical abilities, they paid the accolades to him he so richly deserved. They at the same time did not merely hold a meeting to shower praises only!

Speakers opined that the literary perspective (almost a world literary perspective) that he brings to criticism of literary pieces read at the Halqa meetings ensures an evening well spent.

Even eminent writers like Mushtaq Ahmad Yusoufi, who once attended one of these meetings where Usman also spoke out his mind (as narrated by short-story writer Mansha Yad at the evening), called the standard of literary discussion high. He is reported to have said that he rarely found it even in literary sittings in Karachi. Yet, some others were of the opinion that Usman merely paraded his knowledge and that his poetry needed improvement.

A beautifully-written paper on the poetry of Akhtar Usman by Prof Aftab Iqbal Shamim, who presided over the session, opened with an imaginary dialogue between himself and Hasan Koozagar, who symbolized the poet’s yearning for producing the best and aesthetically the most beautiful. What do you have in return for your search for beauty and perfection? The artist is asked. Why should you suffer from self-pity, saying “Akhtar zare sukhan ko kisee kee talab nahin/main to esaiy uthaiay huway dar ba dar phira”. And the answer is: Who shall buy my “vessels” in an age of “disposables” and “perishables”. (Kaun hota hai hareef-i-ma aiy mard afganay ishq”. If I feel that the eye of any image hanging on the wall smiles, to me it is enough price to symbolize the recognition.

Prof Shamim said that in English major poets have been major critics. And this is so aptly applied to Usman. Calling Akhtar Usman the “aabroo” (honour) of the Islamabad Halqa, Mansha Yad said he had studied well, and had a sharp memory. He said nobody can be perfect in everything but the overall picture of Akhtar Usman was that he was a good poet, and an equally good critic.

Ashfaq Hamid, in his paper “Shairi khoon mangtee hair” analyzed his poetry in terms of protest against social tyranny and spoke of the fast tenor in his first collection “Apni apni saleeb”. His poetry, he said in spite of its being part of progressive poetry has a different kind of energy; (Naaiy salar say zindan mein bacchay poochtay hain/Hamaray ahd kay fateh hamara kiya baneyga).

Short story writer and critic Hameed Shahid praised him for his technical virtuosity but he said that still many possibilities remained unexplored in him. He has not reached the stage where after “Riiazat” one achieves a new sense of creation. He also talked of a hate and love relationship with a contemporary of this kind.

Anjum Khaleeque thought that Islamabad was a city with some outstanding poets who write ghazal. Akhtar Usman stands out among them. Jehangir Imrani called him a “muskil pasand” poet.— Mufti Jamiluddin Ahmad