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November 23 , 2009

Faiz, A Wailing Nightingale

Urdu Poems


Now, a remarkable anthology brings together 104 Urdu poems of the celebrated Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz (newly translated to English by Dr. Khalid Hameed Shaida). Born one hundred years ago in Sialkot, one of Pakistan’s cradles of poetry, Faiz’s mastery of the classical traditions of preceding generations of poets arose from the exhaustive study of works in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, and English. But he was not content to limit himself to aesthetics and form, and over the course of his life went on to frame a dynamic and engaged form of poetry that resonates far beyond Pakistan. The poems in Faiz, a Wailing Nightingale: Urdu Poems establish Faiz as a gre at lyricist who embraced traditional motifs and subjects with an unrivaled passion and proclivity for verse that explores the natural and illusory qualities of love. Yet, as the title of the collection asserts, Faiz was a wailing nightingale—a tortured man who loved beauty, but found himself surrounded by the pain, sorrow, poverty, bloodshed, and tears of daily life in post-Colonial Pakistan. It is in this dynamic counterpoise that Faiz’s artistry becomes manifest, mixing the good, the bad and the ugly in a delightful manner. Faiz’s political beliefs inflect certain poems with calls for solidarity in the face of oppression and charges to fight for equity and justice, but his work never succumbs to the polemic or dogmatic. It is work of great honesty and urgency, reflecting compassion in its view of humanity and commiseration in its understanding of the human condition. He crafted poems of longing and passion, plunging headlong into a reflective examination of beauty in the face of an ephemeral existence in a cruel and profane world. Traditional subjects and motifs recur, and there are invocations of the mystical and ecstatic that rival the achievements of past poets and embellish the legacy of Eastern literature. What revolutionizes his poetry is an engaged awareness of the social and political manipulations that pervade modern life, championing action and change without losing perspective that greed, tyranny, and oppression are constant foes that imperil our ability to contain or hold onto transcendent beauty. And so, he wailed and wailed until he died, leaving for his fortunate readers a treasury of poems that will stir their passion, soothe their spirit, and fulfill their heart. This elegiac and elegant collection offers both Faiz devotees and newcomers a treasured new collection from this important and transcendent poet.
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