PESHAWAR: Zeb Yousafzai may be 60-year-old but this Pakhtun poet from Dagai area of Swabi district says that her poetry is in infancy and will grow and mature as she continues to write about different subjects and themes that inspire her.

She told Dawn that she was finding more confidence in expressing her feelings as people were becoming appreciative of women poets and writers.

Ms Yousafzai is a poet and novelist but she is also interested in preserving Pashto culture and language. She has collected some 1,400 Pashto proverbs and a number of eulogies.

Wearing a tradition shawl of Swabi women called Chail, she talked about her poetry and collection of proverbs. She said that it was important to preserve those proverbs as they depicted their cultural values and life.

Ms Yousafzai said that she feared verbal phrases, passed down from one generation to another orally, might vanish with time so she decided to preserve them by writing them down and soon would publish the collection. She said that women used to sing eulogies during weddings in the olden days but the tradition was dying and she wrote down few eulogies too to preserve them for the coming generations.

The poet said that she was very young when she would write down her father’s poems for him since he was uneducated. “My father Abdul Malik Abdul was very good poet and a very kind father, who would listen to my verses too,” she said. He was the first person, who appreciated and encouraged me to write, she added.

“I could not recite my poems to anyone but my father and I kept it a secret for a long time,” said Ms Yousafzai. She added that at the time people would not let their daughters read or write or get formal education in a school or think of poetry by a woman or girls as something to appreciate.

“My brother Liaquat Yousafzai and later my children, when they grew up, encouraged me to express my feelings and thoughts in verses,” said the poet, who spent each night reading Pashto books or jotting down poetry. She said that she completed high school education after marriage.

“Da Mairman Ghag” (The Voice of Woman) would be her first book that she is soon going to publish. However, she said that she still thought that her poetry was in infancy. She hoped that her poetry would grow and mature as the time passed.

Ms Yousafzai said that nature inspired her and she recently wrote a poem about a nomad girl whom she met in a mountainous area. She said that she was inspired by her beauty and how she preserved her culture and old ways.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2020

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