Free verse in Urdu

Dr. Saadat Saeed


The emergence of the movement for the promotion of symbolism in Urdu poetry in the fourth decade of twentieth century was the natural reaction of moral and rational poetry of the second half of ninetieth century and the logical and manifesto - oriented poetry by the poets belong to the movement of progressive writers launched in 1935. Furthermore it brought with it the principal of using concrete and unsophisticated imagery against the set and loose imagery adopted by the poets committed to romantic emotionalism. N.M. Raashid, Mira Jee, and Tasuddaq Hussain Khalid, adopted the form of Free Verse to reveal their subjective notions and objective perspectives. Later poets like Mukhtar Siddiqi, Zia Jullandhri, Akhtar-ul-Eimaan, Majeed Amjad, Aziz Hamid Madni, Muhammad Safdar, Khalil-ur-Rehman joined them and wrote superb poetry in this newly introduced form. In that period human mind was developing rapidly under the influences of diversified concepts and ideas. Modern science was looking for new interpretations of human life and universe. The dimensional movements emerging under its influence in the fields of philosophy, psychology, sociology and economics were promoting new trends, attitudes and views in creative literature. New psychological interpretation of religious affairs, economics assessments of society and the dark, faded and ambiguous possibilities of human self imparted special dimensions to human mind. As every field of life in twentieth century has accepted deep influences of new human consciousness, the pioneers of free verse in Urdu, too have sublimated their art by using sources of new intellectual global trends. Freudian concepts of sex and unconscious disciplines not only have given a sort of secular attitude to free verse but also have conferred the technique of association of ideas to it. Jungian thought of collective unconsciousness has forced the poets fond of free verse to travel into the expanded mysterious dark continents of human self. Marxist philosophy on the one hand has introduced the concepts of class-consciousness in literature and on the other initiated the values concerning rebellion and freedom. Existentialism declares that man possesses possibilities and he should try to attain the stage of human responsibility bringing into practice his choice and freedom. Marxists and existentialist both emphasized on political themes. So literature in general and free verse in particular took many concepts from these ideologies. They encourage writers and poets to achieve the objectives of self-analysis and self-awareness, which obviously work wonder in expanding the domains of their thought, passions and feelings. In this perspective free verse attained the required target of creative thought and creative freedom. Poets tried their best to capture individual's psychological, social and even metaphysical feelings. Visualizing the profundity and scope of their subjects they took the path of symbolism and abstraction and used all types of ambiguity mentioned by William Ampson in his famous book “On seven types of ambiguity”. As far as technique is concerned they followed methodology of free verse used by T.S Eliot and Ezra Pound. The value of readers increased in comparison to early periods of Urdu verse. He became more significant. Even to this extent that poets declared " It is the reader which gives meaning to their poems."

In the early period of free verse in Urdu the poets exploited the force of moving metaphors, musical affects, and meaningful emotional jerks. Along with the depth of vision and truthfulness of expression they reflected artistically their intense passions. There began a continuous series of searching and discovering something invisible, unique and indefinite. The Poets created stirring metaphors and symbols. The feelings of love, hate, excitement, sadness, happiness, vitality and confidence were captured in compositions. Utilizing the forceful possibilities of illustrative language the poets through purity of their passions fully synthesized reason and sense. The discovery of great domains of subjects provided variety intensity and force to poems. Extraordinary rhythmic feelings were reflected.

When N.M. Raashid and Mira Jee began to write free verse in Urdu it was the time of great turmoil in the world. It is said, " It was a world of poverty, unemployment, starvation, strikes and massacres, and aggressive wars of powerful nations against undefended, and unarmed nations a world which has no justice and truth." This situation forced genuine poets to search out the truth. The non-availability of proper solution to the existing problems made them cynic. They started to fathom political, cultural and philosophical matters, in the light of their subjective and introspective utopias. Their subjective frames of mind helped them to create refined romantic experiences. Poets began to transform their objective experiences into emotional sensitivities. New analogies were created to such an extent that they conceived every individual or object as a metaphor or symbol. This was the reason that N.M. Raashid declared the women sketched in his poetry the unified metaphor of his contemporary India. The poets writing in free verse were completely inspired by the western Imagist movement in art and poetry. N. M Raashid, Mira Jee, Mukhtar Siddiqi, Zia Jullandhari, Muhammad Khalil ur Rehman, Safdar Mir, Majeed Amjad, Hamid Aziz Madni, Akhtar-ul-Eiman, Gilani Kamran, Salah-ud-Din Mahmood, Mubarik Ahmad and many other poets not only analysed subjectively the problems and objective conditions around them but also revealed in their poetry their personal sense data. The tendency of leaping from real to unreal in verse became dominant. The acquainted life ventured forth to embrace outlandish presence. In this period we trace numerous real, sound and thought provoking shapes of romanticism. Mira Jee and N.M. Raashid clearly opposed the views fostered by poets committed to the progressive writers movement and judged poetry through the criterion regarding form and aesthetic. As far as history of Urdu poetry is concerned this period could be declared transitional because besides having sound traces of deep new, unknown, invisible and abstract thoughts and notions it contained many influences from traditional poetry of the past

In this period personalities of Urdu poets had been divided into various parts. The old modes of thought, feelings and emotions had become the victim of disorder. The feeling of displacement was sagacious. Objective realities were divided into pieces. The burden of international, national individual and political deterioration and slavery had crushed badly the emotions and feelings of individuals in India. During and after the Second World War the distraction of prevailed structure of economics and financial backwardness had generated unrest among people. The feelings of helplessness had been touching its heights because of the prevalent despotic atmosphere. The modern concepts imported from western world originated frustrations and anxieties among poets. The basis of religion and mysticism were facing new challenges emerging from the rapid progress of science and technology and new philosophical discoveries. The changes taking place in the timeworn metaphysical system were disturbing old way of living. The expansion of industrial and mechanical life had become the enemy of individual's peace. Distance between supernatural atmosphere and materialistic man had become sharper. People were taking ever increasing interest in the values emerged from the consumerist system. New patterns of clothing, social manners and architecture changed swiftly the prevalent fashion of society. The fading old cultural values were facing new situations of strains due to the introduction of offices. buses, clerks, the splendor of new society and contemporary attractiveness of industrial man. The poets who were writing free verse were touching the concepts of unrest and crisis emerging from collapsing economic structures and social injustice. The individuals projected in their poems seemed to be firmly involved in the fear of self-deprivation. This situation brought into their poetry the neurotic expressions of sadism.

This was the period when the extensive publicity of the multidimensional and complicated settings of modern culture and the influences of new western literary and philosophical movements extended the ranges of Urdu verse. The bright and unused colors of individuality of a person and novel patterns of personality and behavior appeared in the realm of Urdu poetry. Sharp influences of new artistic and literary movements such as Symbolism, Dadaism, Impressionism and imagism forced our poets to take refuge in the castles of their own selves. The concepts revealed by Freud and Jung imparted to poets new awareness of the collective and individualist notions of unconscious. The poets committed to the movement of Halqa Arbab-e-Zauq through the artistic revelation of their subjective and emotional experiences in free verse depicted new types of artistic ambiguities in poetry. Besides transmitting through their poems the attitudes of reprieve, disgust, faithlessness, projected effectively their psychological, aesthetic and symbolic experiences. The influences of T.S.Eliot, Ezra Pound and poets attached to surrealism cultivate symbolic expressions in Urdu free verse. Urdu poets got rid of Ghazal's passive and mournful notions. They resolutely avoided spiritual rhythm, mystical perception, old assets of similes and metaphors, particular traditional techniques, clichés and timeworn analogies. Their followers, too, searched new ways of development for their verse.