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REVIEW: A poetic disclaimer

September 06, 2008

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Those who keep an eye on contemporary Sindhi literature know Naseer Mirza as a versatile and multi-disciplinary writer, poet and broadcaster. But the title of his recent book of poetry took many readers and critics by surprise as it was Thee Na Saghiuas Shair literally meaning `I could not prove to be a poet`. But soon this surprise turned into an immense reading pleasure because the book itself is full of evidence in support of Naseer`s successful voyage into the world of poetry.

Naseer chose this title as he believed he always had a casual attitude towards poetry because he only focused on it during his early days as a writer and after that his poetic instincts were gradually overshadowed by prose writing. `I don`t remember when I accidently wrote a travelogue which made my prose a `hit` and poetry a `hoot` among my contemporaries` he describes his dilemma. But the fact is that despite contributing nine books in prose he also continued his journey as a poet which by default seemed less in volume and more in impact.

Many critics have even described his prose as a poetic voyage. For this very reason, leading poets and writers of Sindh like Sheikh Ayaz, Noor ul Huda Shah, Ali Baba and others took pride in getting their books prefaced and foreworded by him. He has written prefaces and forewords for several writers most of which are featured in his book Kheme Me Sham. There are only a few men of letter in Sindh who have equally excelled in so many fields at one time. During his career as a radio producer he has recorded numerous folk, classical, semi-classical and sufi songs for Radio Pakistan by discovering new voices, musicians and composers. He takes pride in the fact that some of the leading names in the music world today were introduced by Naseer on the radio when there were
neither any private music production houses nor any vibrant TV channels.

His recent book is collection of all his works in poetry which he has put on the table with
complete honesty and openness towards the critics and readers of Sindhi poetry. The collection contains more than a 100 pieces of his poetry in different genres ranging from the traditional form of ghazal to prose poems.

`Before I die I wanted to compile all my works in one book to show the critics of Sindhi poetry all my worth in this field of literature. It is up to the readers and critics to decide whether my worth is different, average or below average,` writes Naseer in the Foreword. Although it would not be appropriate to label Naseer`s poetry as average or below average, but critics would agree that he definitely has a different diction and style of expressing his heart and soul. Poetry, for Naseer, seems to be a strong and powerful means of his own catharsis, a subjective way of his journey within. He uses his power sometimes to launch an intellectual and philosophical discourse for a meaningful soul searching. This could be substantiated with his very first poem of the book titled `Beginning`

Oh the destination
Where have you brought me?
Isn`t here where I started the
journey!

Not only intellectual discourse but sometimes spontaneous feelings make their own way of expression and thus discover creative horizons of a sensitive soul in Naseer. A couplet to mourn the death of his father and share the feelings of newly widowed mother in 1973 became the turning point for an average young man and turned him into a poet

Oh my friend! Since my mother has been widowed
I haven`t seen a moment of relief!
This inspiration from the character of mother and other near and dear ones keeps in-fluencing Naseer as he matures and learns more about life and its delicacies. Another poem about his mother, written long after his first couplets is a reflection of this influence on Naseer

Dry and barren
Knot of hair
Like thin-wire of silver
Desert and thirsty bird
A barren nest

Ever an elegant `Malook`
Charming face,
Now it is...
Like `sub-continent`
Having tattered map...!!

This art of discovering the hidden powers has helped Naseer to express his loneliness, concerns, discomfort and discouragement throughout his life. Not only this but being a conscious citizen he has never turned a blind eye to the sufferings of fellow citizens and countrymen in the form of injustices, poverty, cruelty of customs and traditions as well as sufferings caused by the Partition and large scale migrations. His poem `Partition 1947` is one example of his soul`s consciousness

Once I passed across in the night
Bare screaming houses, unlocked doors;

Just called thousand heavy voices rising;

Oh! Who is there? Owlet?
Trees lurking in the dark;
Leaves falling from boughs

Big shadows on the walls;
Like a brownie or a holy ghost there;

Belief, Temple and Mosque
Ah! A stretched graveyard,

Moon had laughter with sparkling teeth;
It came in my heart;

Scream ought I...?
Oh! The `subcontinent` is this...?

Another interesting aspect of Naseer`s poetry are his tributes to Sufi poets and saints of Sindh such as Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Qalandar Lal Shahbaz, Bedil and others. He has also written poetic portraits of his friends and the men of letters whom he has liked the most. He draws inspiration from religious traditions like mourning in the month of Muharram and events of the Islamic history.

In the Preface Imdad Hussaini, one of the leading poets of Sindh,  has rightly discovered many qualities of Naseer`s poetic approaches by saying, `Naseer`s imagination and creativity is powerful. He is not just putting empty words into the format of poetry but meaningful, uniqueness and innovative style are some of the best qualities in his works`

This collection of poetry is actually an artistic disclaimer that offers a great reading experience in contemporary Sindhi poetry and the title he has chosen actually adds more attraction towards his works as poet. As Imdad suggests, what Naseer needs to do is to own his poetry with pride.

Thee Na Saghiuas Shair
By Naseer Mirza
Kavita Publication, Hyderabad
184 pp. Rs150