Zia Mohyeddin recites Ayaz’s verses at the Arts Council on Wednesday.—White Star
Zia Mohyeddin recites Ayaz’s verses at the Arts Council on Wednesday.—White Star

KARACHI: Scholars shed light on the finer points of iconic Sindhi and Urdu poet Shaikh Ayaz’s poetry at a seminar titled Ayaz Hai Shair-i-Muhabbat organised by the Sindh Literature Festival (SLF) and the Arts Council on the council’s premises on Wednesday evening. But the highlight of the day was recitation of his poems by eminent artist Zia Mohyeddin.

Critic and writer Asif Farrukhi set the tone for the programme by first introducing Ayaz as a top-notch translator by reading his Urdu translation of a Sachal Sarmast poem. He followed it up with Shah M. Pirzado’s translation of Ayaz’s poem and then Fehmida Riaz’s of his poem ‘Hiroshima’. He mentioned the relevance of the piece to our times.

Describing his poetic persona, Farrukhi said the poet was once labelled a ‘revisionist’ which reminded him [Farrukhi] of what Walt Whitman had once written:

Zia Mohyeddin enthrals audience by reciting Ayaz’s poetry

“Do I contradict myself?

Very well, then I contradict myself:

I’m large, I contain multitudes”

The critic said Ayaz’s poetry is both steeped in tradition and contemporariness. He’s rooted to his land. In his poems he has mentioned several unfamiliar flowers and plants found in the Thar region but presented them in a way that they come across as contemporary. Ayaz was well-versed in Urdu and Persian, and he was a serious student of the Urdu language. He, in his creative endeavours, talks to Ghalib and Mir.

Publisher Hoori Noorani started her speech by quoting what Fehmida Riaz had penned about Ayaz. She had said Ayaz loved his motherland and protested in his verses against injustices done to the land. His protest had many hues and colours.

Ms Noorani also went down memory lane when she first met the poet to seek his permission to publish him, and the time when they lived in the same apartment building. Ayaz at the time was setting up a library in his flat and used to get excited like a child while talking about books.

One of the founding members of the SLF, Aijaz Mangi, said it was his dream that Ayaz’s poetry reached the Urdu-speaking audience as well. His Urdu verses have the soul of Sindh in them. Mangi claimed every poet (Ghalib, Iqbal, Rumi etc) has a single colour (read: dimension) but Ayaz’s poetry is like a colourful holi. Ayaz wanted Sindhi- and Urdu-speaking communities in the province to live together in harmony. “There is only one Sindh and will remain one.” Mr Mangi after his speech read out four of his poems too.

After the speeches, the audience was treated to a fine selection of Ayaz’s poetry masterfully recited by Zia Mohyeddin. One must say that the organisers should keep the video recording of the recitation as a historic document because the poems that were presented by the artist were both contextually rich and brilliant in their syntactical scope. For example, the piece ‘Qabristan-i-Makli’ reverberated with historic overtones and their impact on modern-day Sindh. And Mr Mohyeddin did justice to it.

Ayub Sheikh and Naseer Gopal also spoke.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2019