Urdu Manzil

Overseas Pakistani


Wednesday, November 01, 2006


:: Sabiha Saba's poetry ::

Female poets in Pakistan have produced fruitful results. These poetesses have explained their situations expressively. As for some poetasters, their verses only address their own psychological, philosophical and emotional experiences and echo only clichéd concepts.

Dr. Saadat Saeed

The writer is a professor of Urdu Literature at Government College University Lahore

In Pakistan woman’s poetry from 1970 onward is phenomenal. In the earlier days there were only a few female poets like Chanda and Ada Jafery. They wrote traditional ghazals. Fahmida Riaz and Parven Shakir printed extraordinarily good poetry. They evolved new styles of poetry writing in Pakistan. We fully accept the socio-cultural criticism they levelled against the male dominated society in eastern countries. Kishwar Naheed, Nasreen Anjum Bhatti, Fatima Hassan, Azra Abbas, Shahida Hassan, Yasmeen Hamid, Mansora Ahmad, Naheed Qasmi, Shaista Habib made woman’s poetry so popular that every girl and even elderly woman having poetic taste, want to follow their path. Inspired by many world class poets such as Sappho, Emily Dickinson Gabriela Mistral, Anna Akhmatova, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Farogh Farrukhzad and many others influenced our poets though not to a great degree but of course, to the extent of noticing points.

Female poets in Pakistan have produced fruitful results. These poetesses have explained their situations expressively. As for some poetasters, their verses only address their own psychological, philosophical and emotional experiences and echo only clichéd concepts, so for such writing usually after declaring them traditional and obvious we do not even keep them in the dustbins of our memories. Undoubtedly the power of a poet evolves from her personal experiences, but if personal experiences come ad nauseam, than not only will is it jarring to the sensibilities of the readers but it may damage their taste permanently. Ghalib says

Ney gulay naghma hoon na parda-e-saaz

Main hoon apni shakast ki awaz

(I am nether a flower of a song nor the veil of music. I am the voice of my own defeat.  (sound of my breakage) .

Poetry flowers like a song or becomes the veil of music only then, when it depicts the voice of a poet’s failure.

From the title Tayre Sada Aai (I heard your call) by Sabiha Saba, we can assume that Sabiha has definitely heard a call, cry or shout. Is this call coming from: poetry? poet? her beloved? the age? presence or absence? Is this voice is coming from a desert or a tomb?

Perhaps the voice belongs to the toys of sorrows, which are purchased by the poet herself. This implies that she herself is the voice or sound of her breakage.  This voice contains the tones of helplessness, enslavement, frustrations, problems and embarrassments.  Sabiha writes : 

Kabi auroon ka sub ahwal bandhoon

Kabi shayroon main apna hal bandhoon

Kabi main aasman ki baat likhoon

Kabi main shayr main paatal bandhoon

 Sometimes I write about the crisis of other people.

Sometimes I write my situation in poetry.

Some times I write the story of elevation

Sometimes I plum the depths fully.

 Sabiha Saba has made poetry the means of achieving subjective freedom. This freedom could give her the courage of opening the flag of her being in front of the hostile universe, society and man. Sitting in her lawn she loves to talk to the winds openly. This act releases the birds of her insight and knowledge. She seriously thinks of leaving those traditions that have made human life impossible, through their assaults on it from every direction.

Buhat say dil garifta gham kay maray aur be hoon gay

Abi lagta hay gardash main sitaray aur be hoon gay

There would be many other sorrow stricken and grieved persons too

It seems there would be many other bewildered stars too

 The benefit which she derives from her poetry also seems to reflect a transformation of her self. This transformation is constant. She has expressed her dissatisfaction over the criteria’s of the existing world.

Taqaza waqt ka tabdilion ka ik sabab tehra

Buhat acha huwa warna yeh sab sarsharian kab theen

The demand of time was the reason behind the changes.

It is good, otherwise when did these elevations ever exist before?

I don’t say that Sabiha Saba has created fully the universe of her own thoughts, but she ha definitely built her own world. She has not taken these concepts from elsewhere. She has learnt to decorate her own house herself. In places it seems, that perhaps she is secreting these claims only due to her own weakness and powerlessness, and her humble nature. If poetry doesn’t bring the poet to the threshold of a crisis, we should assume it is taking the path of mere logical reasoning. However, being the part of contemporary society Sabiha is trying to open the doors of a new society.

Nit nayay jazboon ki soghat atta hey uski

Meray izhar main pehlay yeh baghawat kab thee

He has given me the gift of various passions

My expressions never evinced such a rebellion before.

Poetry has given her the courage to leave existence; made her capable to sit alone in the cave of her self. It has given her the taste for facing new ideas directly. Her life passed through a kind of determinism. There was an illusion, but she thought it was water. She faced a ruler not a friend. It was a mere tradition that demanded of her to live together at one place with the other person referred to in the poem, in spite that there is a vast separation between them. They were locked with a coded lock and remained unaware of the trick of opening it. Commitments bound them to live together till their end, but in fact they made them aloof from one another in the very places they occupied. They were facing a new voyage of life.

Oktavio Paz writes: “An invitation to travel is extended. One is returning to ones own country. Nerves are involved. Breaths come fast. Worship of emptiness and a dialogue with a non-existent person are going on. The development of this kind of situation brings disgust, annoyance and frustration.”

The poet symbolises the voice of her own breakage or failure. Though there exist so many other formulas of poetry, but take any possible natural or metaphysical concept, due to its imaginative and ideological speed we find poetry far ahead of the thought. Even the desert of possibility is like a footprint in front of it. This is the main reason that not a single series of thought can reach up to its real definition. Poetry always remains in search of the second footprint of aspiration. This reality in its own way is irrefutable: that every epoch brings with itself, a new concept of Man too. Though the basics of this being never change, but his attitudes and trends may make a quantum leap. The dimensions and meanings of poetry face change too in the process. Somewhere some poets give expressions to the silky stirs of romanticism. Somewhere some poets see the mad dance of bloodsucking moments. Metaphysical creeds and experiences, which are inevitable parts of our consciousness and unconsciousness, frequently come disguised.  As the famous Urdu poet says:

Ik muima hey samajnay ka na samjhanay ka 

(We can not understand or explain this riddle)

Sabiha says in this perspective

Purana manzar badal gia hey naey ujaloon ka rang bikhra

Saba tumhari naey ghazal main naey misaloon ka rang bikhra

Sabiha Saba has told the story of her defeats, tears and pains in the perspective of society and its tendencies. She has expressed in dialogues and monologues the truths encompassing her life (from childhood to up till now) in such a way that readers enjoy fully the autobiographical tones reflected in her poetry. People, who run after material gain and carnal and sensuous longings, search the paths of success but the poet tries to pass life through his or her perception and after embracing failures and disillusionments exposes truths and realities.

Sabiha Saba in her poetry does not try to conceal human weaknesses. She has full control over her poetic powers. Due to the consummate, emotional and ideological concentration she has over her poetry she writes fully ethical poetry. Her poetic collections have nothing to do with ideas containing instinctual hollowness. The transparent and sweet fountains of her imagination flow smoothly. As a conscientious poet, she consciously circumvents any evil and unethical attitudes from infesting her verses; though these tendencies are fully active like germs in the festering pools of the verses of several indelicate women poets.

In the tempest of life, Sabiha’s waves of ideas move with long sweeps. After securing herself from the modern literary idiom, she chooses far- fetched problematic thoughts to incorporate in her poetry. It is evident from the last verse of her poetic collection that she has even found peace of mind in a true form. She writes:

Sunaey hain saba main nain buhat say dard kay qissay

Mili asodgi to harfe rahat likh raheeh hoon main

Saba I have told many painful stories before

After finding peace of mind, I am writing words containing happiness


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