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Reading Iftikhar Arif’s Confessional Wish-List On World Poetry Day

Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

In celebrating World Poetry Day, March 21, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.

A decision to proclaim 21 March as World Poetry Day was adopted during UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999.

One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.

The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.

Held every year on 21 March, World Poetry Day celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity. Practiced throughout history – in every culture and on every continent – poetry speaks to our common humanity and our shared values, transforming the simplest of poems into a powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace.

March 21 also marks the 78th birthday of one of Urdu’s greatest living poets, Iftikhar Arif. He was born in India in 1943 and moved to Pakistan in 1965. His first book, Mehr-e-Doneem (Sliced Moon) was published in 1983, and his latest one, his sixth, titled Baagh-e-Gul-e-Surkh (The Garden of Red Roses) has just been published. He has won a variety of literary awards, including the prestigious Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 2005. He is also a well-known literary critic, whose work on Faiz has garnered praise.

Arif’s works cuts across genres. He is mostly known for his devotional poetry, the qaseeda, the marsiya and nauha in the distinct Shia tradition to which he belongs. Some these and his poems have also been performed by well-known artistes. The poem I have selected here for translation, Dayaar-e-Noor Mein (In These Moments of Light) in stark contrast to his forte, however, is a straight-up poem constituting a lover’s wish-list. In it, Arif deftly juxtaposes irony with desire to produce a confessional effect. The poem has been sung by Noor Jehan and can also be viewed on YouTube.

‘Dayaar-e-noor mein teera-shabon ka saathi ho

Koi to ho jo meri vahshaton ka saathi ho

Main us se jhoot bhi boloon to mujh se sach bole

Mere mizaaj ke sab mausamon ka saathi ho

Vo mere naam ki nisbat se mo’tabar thehre

Gali gali meri rusvaaiyon ka saathi ho

Main us ke haath na aaoon vo mera ho ke rahe

Main gir padoon to meri pastiyon ka saathi ho

Vo khvaab dekhe to dekhe mere havale se

Mere khayaalon ke sab manzaron ka saathi ho

(In these moments of light, a friend for darker days I seek

Someone to comfort me during my panicked phase I seek

Even if I lie constantly, he should speak naught but truth

A mate for all my capricious moods and ways, I seek

His fortitude should outlast my golden ‘glory days’

His support, when I lie forlorn in a shamed haze, I seek

I may become elusive but he should remain mine

If I fall to abjection, his arms to raise me, I seek

If he must dream, all his fancies should have me as referent

That my wonder and delight should leave him amazed, I seek.)















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