Sabiha Saba’s poetry

Professor. DR Saadat SAEED

Urdu and Pakistan studies chair Ankara University Turkey


The following is an article written by Professor. DR Saadat Saeed, regarding the poetry of Sabiha Saba. Even if you are a fan of poetry you may not be aware of female Pakistani poets. Those of you who have studied literature and poetry at university or at a course found through eLearners or a similar website, will find this really interesting. It is an insight into the wonderful work of Sabiha Saba, a chance to learn about different cultures, history and writing.

In Pakistan woman’s poetry from 1970 onward is phenomenal. The earlier days could be given over to few rare poets of past I mean from Chanda to 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 accept fully the socio-cultural criticism by them against the male dominated society in eastern countries. Kishwar Naheed, Nasreen Anjum Bhati, 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 other influenced our poets though not on great scale but of course to the extent of noticing points.

Women poetry in Pakistan have produced fruitful results. Poets explained their situations expressively. If the poet is compiling in her poetry only the index of her psychological, philosophical and emotional situations and scribing the timeworn reasoning of resolved ideas on paper, we after declaring them traditional and evident, should not keep even in the dustbins of our memories. Undoubtedly the power of a poet grows up from her personal experiences. But if personal experiences will come out like nausea than not only the tastes of the readers will be polluted but also can be ceased for ever. 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 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 Your call came by Sabiha Saba) we can assume that Sabiha has definitely listened a call or 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 capture 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 winds openly. This act releases the birds of her sights and knowledge. She seriously thinks to leave those traditions, which 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 her poetry poured on her sounds like the 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 for many reasons,  as these elevations never existed before. I don’t say that Sabiha Saba has created fully the universe of her own thoughts.  But it is her own world. She has not taken it from elsewhere. She has learnt to decorate her own house herself. At places it seems, that perhaps she is pocketing these claims only due to her weakness, powerlessness, and humble nature. If poetry doesn’t bring poet at the threshold of crisis we should assume it is taking the path of mere logical reasoning. But 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 have this rebellion before.

Poetry has given her the courage to leave the existent. Made her capable to sit alone in the cave of her self. It has given her the taste of 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, which demanded from her to live together at one place in spite of a factual separation. She faced a sort of none communication being in the process of communication. They were locked with a coded lock and remained unaware of its opening trick. Promises bounded them to live together till their end but in fact they made them aloof at their own places. They were facing a new voyage of life.

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

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 them. 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 could reach up to its real definition. Poetry always remains in search of the second footprint of aspiration. This reality at its own place is irrefutable that every epoch brings with itself, a new concept of Man too. Though the instincts of this man never change, but his attitudes and trends take a long 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 blood sulking moments. Metaphysical creeds and experiences, which are inevitable parts of our consciousness and unconsciousness, come in disguise frequently.  As 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 beats, 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 reflecting in her poetry. People who run after things and carnal and sensuous longings search the paths of success but the poet tries to pass life through his or her decorum and after embracing failure or breakage exposes truths and realities.

Sabiha Saba in her poetry didn’t try to conceal human weaknesses. She has full control over her poetic powers. Due to her emotional and ideological concentration over her poetry she has written fully ethical poetry. Her poetic collections have nothing to do with the ideas containing instinctual hollowness. The transparent and sweet fountains of her imagination are flowing smoothly. As a careful poet, she consciously prevented evil and unethical attitudes fully active like germs in the smelling pools of various indelicate women poets.

In the storm of life Sabiha’s waves of ideas are moving like breaths. After securing herself from modern literary make up, she has chosen, far- fetched problematic thoughts for her to incorporate in her poetry. We can guess from the last verse of her poetic collection that she has found even the peace of mind at its full length. 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 getting peace of mind I am writing words containing happiness.