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The Penguin Book of Modern Urdu Poetry

Mahmood Jamal (tr.)

Jamal, Mahmood (tr.);

The Penguin Book of Modern Urdu Poetry

Penguin Books, 1986, 165 pages

ISBN 0140585125, 9780140585124

topics: |  poetry | urdu | india | pakistan | translation | anthology

Competent translations, excellent selection.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz: My Guests 23


The door opens
on my sadness;
there they come, my guests.
There she is, the evening
to lay a carpet of despair.
There goes the night
to speak of pain to the stars.
Here comes the morning
with its shining scalpel
to open the wound of memory.
Then there is afternoon
hiding whips of flame in its sleeve.
All these are my guests
who come to see me day and night.
But when they come
and when they go,
I do not know.
My thoughts are always
drifting homeward,
holding doubts and suspicions
asking many questions.
       (tr. Mahmood Jamal)

Faiz Ahmad Faiz: : Last night your lost memory

Last night your lost memory
came to me
as spring comes quietly upon a wilderness
as a cool breeze
blows gently across desert sands
as a sick man
without reason finds relief.

Do not ask of me, my love : Faiz

Do not ask of me, my love,
that love I once had for you.
There was a time when
life was bright and young and blooming,
and your sorrow was much more than
any other pain.
Your beauty gave the spring everlasting youth:
your eyes, yes your eyes were everything,
all else was vain.
While you were mine, I thought, the world was mine.
Though now I know that it was not reality,
that's the way I imagined it to be;
for there are other sorrows in the world than love,
and other pleasures, tool
Woven in silk and satin and brocade,
those dark and brutal curses of countless centuries:
bodies bathed in blood, smeared with dust,
sold from market-place to market-place,
bodies risen from the cauldron of disease,
pus dripping from their festering sores—
my eyes must also turn to these.
You’re beautiful still, my love,
but I am helpless too;
for there are other sorrows in the world than love,
and other pleasures too.
Do not ask of me, my love,
that love I once had for you!

Note: On the whole, this version, while a competent translation, fails to
	excite me like Agha Shahid Ali's amazing, "Don't ask me for that love
	again", from The rebel's silhouette;
	see comparison at Indian Love Poems.
	and also at Poems by Faiz, by Victor Kiernan.

ALI SARDAR J'AFRI : The final night p. 78

    [ 1912-]

Chairs, tables, lamps, chandeliers,
clinking of glasses,
bottles hiding laughter and song
in their long necks.
Colour of wine, appearing in the glasses
staining them red.

The blood of Korea
in the eyes of Yankee officers,
bodies of young men chopped up
on plates; mothers' breasts
in the claws of sharp forks, babies
under American knives,
barbecued on bomb fires;
the wine of tears, the song of screams.
This is the final night,
the last round, the final drink.

Look, out there, outside the window,
the young Korean night burns like gunpowder!
the warcries
of Seoul's raiders!

ALI SARDAR J'AFRI : Tears of shame p.81

Where are the tears of shame
to wash the blood from our clothes
and the dirt of suspicion from our hearts?

Were they here, those tears,
our spirit would find strength.
This Man now caught in hate
and trapped in lust and greed,
victim of his own politics,
this Man would dwell in love,
becoming god.

KAIFI A'ZMI : Bangladesh p. 83

I am not some country which you can destroy.
I am not a wall which you can demolish
Nor a frontier that you can wipe out.

This world map
You have spread upon the table
Has only lines in it.
Why do you search for me in there?
I am the yearning of the possessed.
I am the brutal dream of the oppressed.


    [ b.1916 Sargodha]

I met a friend yesterday
who revealed to me this secret:
'The days of love and passion are gone'
he said.

Then, looking around nervously,
he added:
'Roll up your carpet of love,
gather money wherever you can get it.
Listen to me,
become civilized.'

SAHIR LUDHIANWI : Market Place p. 130

	1921-80 b. Ludhiana real name: Abd-al-Haye.

Those poems that once I wrote for you
I've brought today into the market place,
Today they'll go to the highest bidder,
the songs through which our love found meaning.
Everything is measured now on silver scales,
my thoughts, my poetry, my emotions.
Poverty has turned to commodity
the songs that were as priceless as our love.
Hunger demands a few crumbs and necessities,
instead of the blossoming image of your face.
Look, in this age of capital and labour
my songs are not my own.
You may belong to someone rich;
your pictures cannot remain with me.
Those poems that once I wrote for you
I've brought today into the market place,

HABIB JALIB : My daughter, p. 143

   	 b. 1929

Thinking that it was a toy,
when she saw the chain around my wrists
my daughter jumped for joy.

Her laughter was the gift of morning,
her laughter gave me endless strength.
A living hint of a free tomorrow
gave meaning to my night of sorrow.

Alamgir Hashmi in World Literature Today

Not many anthologies of modern Urdu poetry exist in English.
The latest, edited by Mahmood Jamal, offers one hundred
poems by seventeen poets, from Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-84) to
Iftiqar Arif (b. 1943), and is welcome both as evidence of Jamal's
devotion to modern Urdu poetry and its translation and as a correct
gesture toward Urdu by the publishers of Penguin Books.
The anthology contains much good work, much of it in acceptable
translation. Jamal omits the ghazal completely, as well as some
important non-ghazal modern poetry, and not a few will be disappointed
on that score. Disagreements over the selection of certain
poets and the omission of some others, as well as over the choice of
poems in cases, which are bound to occur, still must not minimize
the importance of the effort to bring modern Urdu poetry to a world
audience. At the same time, it must be recognized that Jamal's
definition of "Modernity" and "Modernism ' in Urdu is rather
sketchy and far too limited to describe the range and the variety of
poetics evolved from it since the 1930s. The editor himself admits
that "the poems and poets chosen for this volume do not at all
constitute a total representation of twentieth-century Urdu poetry;
for this a much larger volume is required.
Yet, the present anthology is handy, and for the English-reader's
first taste of modern Urdu poetry I can recall few comparable
volumes that already exist.

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This review by Amit Mukerjee was last updated on : 2015 Aug 25