In honor of World Poetry Day on March 21st, I was excited to learn more about famous Pakistani poets and their work. Reading poetry is actually a hobby of mine, and I truly admire those who are able to carefully craft such beautiful words. In my research, I found many great Pakistani poets; below, I’ve included a few more prominent and well-known poets and their work, as well as some personal favorites.
Hafeez Jalandhari was born at the beginning of the 20th century in 1900, and lived through many years in South Asia prior to Pakistan becoming a country. He wrote poetry from a young age, and his first book of poems was published in 1925. Jalandhari had a long career as a poet, but through his later poetry, promoted the creation of the separate states of India and Pakistan. His two most famous works are Shahnama-e-Islam, a lengthy poem describing the history of Islam, and the Pakistan national anthem, Qaumi Taranah.
Oh Motherland, be glorious;
Oh Beautious realm, be glorious.
Thou, the sign of high resolve—
Land of Pakistan!
-From “Qaumi Taranah”
Kishwar Naheed moved to Pakistan after Partition in 1949, and soon became an influential poet in the country. Wanting to receive a full education, Naheed did a correspondence course for her high school diploma and went on to earn a Masters in Economics. Married to another poet, she raised two children with him, then supported her sons with both her poetry and other work after her husband passed away. Her most famous poem “We Sinful Women” has been translated into English as well as Spanish, and Naheed has won multiple awards, including the Adamjee Prize for Literature and the Mandela Prize.
Those who cannot bear the scorching defeat of their courage
are grafted on to the earth.
That`s how they make way for the mighty
but they are merely straw not grass
-the grass is really like me.
-From “The Grass is Really Like Me”
Faiz Ahmed Faiz was a famous political poet, who was most active from the 1940’s to 1960’s. Born to a wealthy family, Faiz had an education in multiple languages, earning a Bachelors Degree in Arabic and a Masters in English. After spending a short stint in the military as a teacher, he left to run a socialist newspaper called The Pakistan Times. He was later arrested along with Communist leaders for allegedly planning a coup, and spent four years in prison where he continued to write. Faiz became the best selling Urdu poet in all of Pakistan, and was equally popular in India. While his earliest poems were about love and life, his later poems reflected the turmoil of the region and the need for peace.
Each footstep meant death
and even the promise of life
for I’ve returned from the lane
where the executioner lives
I’ve loitered there
as if to get some air
I’ve strolled by his door
Ahmed Faraz is another famous modern poet, and is often compared to Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who was a role model of his. Faraz started writing from a very young age, and studied poetry and language throughout his education. He was deeply interested in politics, which often became a theme for his writings. Faraz left Pakistan during Zia-ul-Haq’s time in power, and spent over six years in Europe and Canada, where he continued to write and was even a chairperson of the National Book Foundation that is based in Islamabad. He continued to be a political activist until his death in 2008, and he is now fondly remembered for his poetry and passion.
Time has brought me to such a desert of forgetfulness
Now your name even, may I perish, I cannot remember
Is this not enough that in the state of being without country
the abandonment of my fellow countrymen I cannot remember
-From “I Too Was a Poet Once”