Saba's poetry ::
Female poets in
Pakistan have produced fruitful results. These poetesses have explained their
situations expressively. As for some poetasters, their verses only address their
own psychological, philosophical and emotional experiences and echo only clichéd
The writer is a professor of Urdu Literature at Government College University
In Pakistan woman’s poetry from 1970 onward is phenomenal. In the earlier days
there were only a few female poets like Chanda and 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 fully accept
the socio-cultural criticism they levelled against the male dominated society in
eastern countries. Kishwar Naheed, Nasreen Anjum Bhatti, 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 others influenced our poets though not
to a great degree but of course, to the extent of noticing points.
Female poets in Pakistan have produced fruitful results. These poetesses have
explained their situations expressively. As for some poetasters, their verses
only address their own psychological, philosophical and emotional experiences
and echo only clichéd concepts, so for such writing usually after declaring them
traditional and obvious we do not even keep them in the dustbins of our
memories. Undoubtedly the power of a poet evolves from her personal experiences,
but if personal experiences come ad nauseam, than not only will is it jarring to
the sensibilities of the readers but it may damage their taste permanently.
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 own
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 (I heard your call) by Sabiha Saba, we can assume
that Sabiha has definitely heard a call, 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 plum 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 the winds openly. This act releases the birds of her insight and knowledge.
She seriously thinks of leaving those traditions that 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 she derives from her poetry also seems to reflect a
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, otherwise when did these elevations ever exist before?
I don’t say that Sabiha Saba has created fully the universe of her own
thoughts, but she ha definitely built her own world. She has not taken these
concepts from elsewhere. She has learnt to decorate her own house herself. In
places it seems, that perhaps she is secreting these claims only due to her own
weakness and powerlessness, and her humble nature. If poetry doesn’t bring the
poet to the threshold of a crisis, we should assume it is taking the path of
mere logical reasoning. However, 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 evinced such a rebellion before.
Poetry has given her the courage to leave existence; made her capable to sit
alone in the cave of her self. It has given her the taste for 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 that demanded of her to live together at one place with the other
person referred to in the poem, in spite that there is a vast separation between
them. They were locked with a coded lock and remained unaware of the trick of
opening it. Commitments bound them to live together till their end, but in fact
they made them aloof from one another in the very places they occupied. They
were facing a new voyage of life.
Oktavio Paz writes: “An invitation to travel is extended. One is returning to
ones own country. Nerves are involved. Breaths come fast. Worship of emptiness
and a dialogue with a non-existent person are going on. The development of this
kind of situation brings disgust, annoyance and frustration.”
The 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 the thought. 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 can reach up to
its real definition. Poetry always remains in search of the second footprint of
aspiration. This reality in its own way is irrefutable: that every epoch brings
with itself, a new concept of Man too. Though the basics of this being never
change, but his attitudes and trends may make a quantum 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 bloodsucking moments. Metaphysical creeds and experiences, which are
inevitable parts of our consciousness and unconsciousness, frequently come
disguised. As the 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 defeats, 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 reflected in her
poetry. People, who run after material gain and carnal and sensuous longings,
search the paths of success but the poet tries to pass life through his or her
perception and after embracing failures and disillusionments exposes truths and
Sabiha Saba in her poetry does not try to conceal human weaknesses. She has full
control over her poetic powers. Due to the consummate, emotional and ideological
concentration she has over her poetry she writes fully ethical poetry. Her
poetic collections have nothing to do with ideas containing instinctual
hollowness. The transparent and sweet fountains of her imagination flow
smoothly. As a conscientious poet, she consciously circumvents any evil and
unethical attitudes from infesting her verses; though these tendencies are fully
active like germs in the festering pools of the verses of several indelicate
In the tempest of life, Sabiha’s waves of ideas move with long sweeps. After
securing herself from the modern literary idiom, she chooses far- fetched
problematic thoughts to incorporate in her poetry. It is evident from the last
verse of her poetic collection that she has even found peace of mind in a true
form. 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 finding peace of mind, I am writing words containing happiness.