November 01, 2006
Sabiha Saba's poetry ::
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
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
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
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
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