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Is English Poetry In Pakistan Dying?

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Fatima Ijaz says English poetry in Pakistan needs to be studied more, and the like-minded individuals should connect and see what their works have in common. Since we have owned English as a language, writing poetry in it should be a significant step. 

As an English poet, writing in Pakistan, I find the atmosphere usually lacking in opportunities. A change in this status quo was visible at Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) last month, where in one of the sessions titled Voices From Far and Near, Pakistani English poetry was featured. Salman Kureshi, poet and moderator of this event, reminisced about a time in the 60s and 70s when English poetry was thriving in the city. There were regular get-togethers and readings by the poets. Can the lack of such a scenario these days be attributed to a lack of vision and spirit amongst English poets today?

When poetry movements such as Dada and Surrealism flourished in the West, they were ignited by either war affects or artistic ideology. Is there no such cause of alarm or imagination that is hitting the poetic sensibility today? Perhaps it is there, but taking place in some obscure black corners of the city.

To some, poetry comes as a natural calling and is the only way they can express themselves. To others, it could be part of an activism. Recent events in the city such as the Aurat March, or a movement such as Transgender Rights could be inspiration to write poetry. In fact, Art Baithak, organized by The School of Writing and Karachi University (March, 2019), featured an Urdu poet reciting on the topic of the plight of members of the transgender community. However, my concern in this article is active English poetry in the city.

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It seems that Pakistani English poetry of this time needs to be further studied and research already existing should be made readily available. I recently looked up Muneeza Shamsie’s A Dragonfly in the Sun (A selection of Pakistani English poetry, fiction and drama) and it was un-available at major bookstores in the country. I would like to know how the English poetry of Pakistan is evolving, what young poets are dreaming of, what older poets have envisioned. More investigations should ensue as to what ideologue the writing represents.

I would like to stress here on new voices and unheard songs, it is imperative that they should be brought out to the forefront.

Poetry is the language of metaphors and soul, and it should have its proper place in society. If in this attempt, we are to discover, for example, that abstraction or private symbolism are thriving in the writings of new poets, then we can ask questions such as: what is it in our society that has made the poet so reclusive and solitary?

Besides critique, there should be more poetry gatherings where like-minded people should meet and perhaps sit down and see what their works have in common, or what is it that is so dissimilar? English, the language, visited us long ago and now we have owned it, so writing poetry in it should be a significant step.

The Aleph Review is a Pakistani magazine dedicated to poetry in English. Their third annual magazine just came out. Besides which there is The Missing Slate and Desiwriters’ Lounge which feature some English poetry. However, these are just three and are extremely exclusive. Poetry should be a thing of the air, the streets and lifestyle.

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I feel there is a dearth of publishing opportunities in Pakistan. Also, English poets, if existing, need to find and acquaint themselves with each other. I’m curious to see if an invisible movement is brewing: are we writing on similar themes? If poetry is becoming too abstract, is it a tendency in this city? If it is apathetic to local marches and movements, why is that?

Black is the molecular habitat of the poet,
The search rages for a common ground.
Pierced interior of an after-effect,
What is it that ails you?

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