:: Rumi – the spiritual guide ::

The prose poem in Urdu has encompassed free eternal perspective of emotions and feelings, associational rhythm, flow and a new system and style of the inner construction and formation of poetic lines

Dr. Saadat Saeed

The writer is a professor of Urdu Literature at Government College University Lahore

Though the term Prose poem is paradoxical in its nature, yet it is an accepted reality from the days Charles Baudelaire, the great French symbolist poet introduced it. His prose poems; Widows, The beautiful Dorothy and Vocations encompass and combine narrative and rhythmic means. Paul Claudel, Aloysius Bertrend and Arthur Rimbaud wrote artistic prose poetry.

Poetry written in metre restricts the poet’s free ideas. Metre brings with it all its connotations and shades. The prose poem writer creates new dimensional prose rhythms and with the powerful flight of his imagination combines unrelated things, notions and objects. Talking about free verse H G Roth declares that it solicits unlimited reveries of the ancient world. We can apply this fact to prose poems which also bring about the desired results. Even living in the modern world prose poem writers have successfully carried out their schemes of embracing the unrestrained and free expressions and symbolic discourses of ancient man. Free verse and prose poets both construct symbols. Ernst Cassirer says, “Man is a symbolic animal. His languages, religions, sciences and art all depict his symbolic expressions.” Owning the views comprehended by the followers of Freudian psychoanalysis, prose poets too think that symbols and signs are extremely frank and beautified shapes of human ideas. Poets can bring to the surface of consciousness deep and fascinating music. Baudelaire was of the opinion that poets should aim to reach to the symbolic substance of feelings and capture speculatively the real truth hidden in the caves of perception.

Is it necessary to observe all the formalities of metre, rhymes and post rhyme words? Prose poets do not bother about these restrictions but if rhymes suit the music and rhythm of ideas, they seldom overlook them. Prose poems in Urdu can be considered as a great leap towards the change in traditional concepts of form. We cannot detach form from associations of ideas and suggestions of feelings. Their natural expressions provide objective shape to a form. Modernistic trends and necessities emerging from new times change emotional and sentimental setups. Poetic modes bring their own forms with them. Javed Shaheen, Afzal Ahmad Sayid, Anis Nagi, Abdur Rashid, Qamar Jameel, Kishwar Naheed, Rais Frogh, Ahmad Hamaish, Anopa Hyder, Mehmood Kanwar, Sarwat Hussain, Azra Abbas, Shaista Habib, Qamar Jameel, Mubarik Ahmad, Nasreen Anjum Bhatti, Fahim Jozi, Tanvir Anjum, Zeeshan Sahil and many other poets adopted this new form and compiled notable collections. They rebel even against the relaxed conditions of metric rhythm in verse librale and express their psychological passions and emotional associations in such a way that from nothingness new forms containing free associations come into existence. Prose poems require full harmony between experience and expression. Free associations and rapid images often constitute scattered concepts in the poems written by Urdu prose poets to the extent that it is impossible to discover some type of objective continuation in them, but because of the particular spirit of their rhythm and impact, an harmonious whole necessarily become visible. The prose poem has the power of presenting objectively or subjectively the diversified and dimensional subjects. Proper arrangements of lines, inner connotations and particular mode of parlances create rhythm and impact. Lines should be continuous and in full flow. Images should construct new meaningful or absurd totalities. Prose poets are struggling hard to win over readers’ opinions in their favors. We present here few excerpts from prose poems written by Azra Abbas, Nasreen Anjum Bhatti, Afzal Ahmad Syed

Those who don’t fall prey

to accidents

while crossing roads in their childhood

are devoured by

an epidemic.

Those who survive it

are trapped by

something unexpected

and die

those who survive

are killed by other survivors

And these other survivors then

die their own death

( A Poem by Azra Abbas)

(Translated by Frances W Pritchett and Asif Aslam Farrukhi)

To fear is to abdicate life

If I’d be given another life

I shall grow bamboo forests

And encamped in green sunlight,

(Every Girl by Nasreen Anjum Bhatti)

(Translated by Yasmeen Hameed)


give me

fertile shore

your hand

Warm and golden


give me

hope and water

(Mehran-give me by Sarwat Hussain)

(Translated by Frances W Pritchett and Asif Aslam Farrukhi)

Near the sea

in a building


except for me

and the neighbour’s dog

no one comes alone

I am learning a new language

to converse with myself

(Learning a New Language by Afzal Ahmad Sayid)

(Translated by Frances W Pritchett and Asif Aslam Farrukhi)

The prose poem in Urdu has encompassed free eternal perspective of emotions and feelings, associational rhythm, flow and a new system and style of the inner construction and formation of poetic lines. It has completely replaced old rhythms and rhymes. Poets dedicated to verse librale do not ignore traditional and prevalent metres. Prose poets in Urdu are still seeking the traditional readership. They are struggling for their proper recognition. But their personal levels of consciousness do not allow them to come down from their high pedestals.

They do not want to communicate with other people at the cost of their precious styles and notions. Readers blame them of becoming artificial and ambiguous. Traditional critics say that these poets are writing prose poems because they cannot write poetry in metre and traditional rhythms. Their automatism is not natural. They lack real poetic vision. Their imagination is borrowed. Prose poets consciously ignore musical connotations and expressions. It is difficult to read a prose poem even in a free rhythm. This form of poetry does not bother about the principals and methods, which gather extensive thoughts in essential possible expression. The critics endorsing classical values state that Prose poems seem the product of the poets who lack aesthetic taste and intuition. Their command over language is doubtful. Another unavoidable charge by these critics on them is their undue interest in emotionalism and romanticism.

There was a period in the history of Urdu poetry when such blames and charges forced N M Raashid, Mira Jee and many other poets and critics to write serious articles about the validity of Free verse. Now Iftikhar Jalib, Mubarik Ahmad, Qamar Jameel, Anis Nagi, Tabussum Kashmiri, Abdur Rashed, Rias Frogh, Kishwar Naheed and few other poets and critics, appreciating new tendencies of writing prose poetry are formulating these opinions about the requirements and formative principals of prose poem. When we analyse the opinions formulated by the anti prose poem group we find them illogical and malapropos. These critics seem unaware of the process of evolution in literary history and aesthetics.

The prose poem in Urdu seems to be fully acquainted with new contemporary situations, socio-political requirements and current aesthetic taste. Prose poets through their fascinating symbols, metaphors are giving new meaning to old passions and prevalent words. Their metaphors bring into limelight the subjective emptiness of an individual and truths hidden behind the iron curtain of modern politics and several types of socio-cultural world orders.

We cannot deny the fact that certain poets do have the tendencies of being ambiguous, incoherent, and enigmatic in their poems. But they have their own justifications in this respect. They say ambiguity is a relative issue. It is possible to achieve the level of deep philosophical perception even by using personal metaphors in expressing an individual’s pure experiences and explaining unacquainted psychological situations. Mira Jee has declared that ambiguity is a relative concept. If readers lack philosophical sublimation they won’t be able to grasp poems charged with pure reflective depths. The readers who follow traditional path of understanding poetry can complain against ambiguities and complexities involved in the purest form of pure poetry. Their long association with the expression used in traditional ghazal proves to be a great hurdle in the process of understanding prose poems.

It is in the air that the introduction of prose poem in Urdu can uproot traditional concepts and routine subjects from the terra firma of Urdu poetry. Prose poets are trying to incorporate in their poems new scientific, philosophical, psychological, and cultural themes. They are bringing close poetry and ordinary language. Prose poem has the possibility of implanting new expressions and natural situations in the fields of poetry.