Parveen Shakir

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Remembering Parveen Shakir (1952-1994)

My 2009 article published in The Friday Times.

parveen-shakir-the-bold-brilliant-and-the-beautifulParveen Shakir (1952-1994) has defined the sensibilities of several generations and beyond. At the relatively young age of 42 years, Parveen Shakir died on an empty Islamabad boulevard, as if this was an essential part of her romantic persona. But she had lived a full life where poetry and tragedy intersected each other and became inseparable from her being.

As a young student in high school, I was introduced to Shakir’s romantic poetry, which was best represented by her first collection of poetry ‘Khushbu’ . I had won an essay writing competition in Urdu and a delightful award came in the form of this tender volume of poetry. Since then I have always returned to bits and pieces of Khushbu . It may not be ‘great’ according to the cannons of literary theory, but it is spontaneous, fresh and almost dreamlike. Shakir was bearly 24 years old when Khushbu was published and since its first edition, this book has been a best seller wherever Urdu poetry is read or appreciated.

CXHeqSFWQAAri4VKhushbu turned Shakir into a celebrity. Aside from mushairas, newspapers and public fora, she was ever-present on the Pakistan television, perhaps as its only saving grace during the rigid years of Zia-ul-Haq’s Martial Law. Shakir had a natural talent for public speaking, reciting poetry and just being herself. I remember one monsoon evening in Murree when we were hooked to her presentation on Pakistan’s Independence Day. There was a distinct tenderness in her voice that was in sharp contrast to the platitudes being churned out. Above all she was beautiful. I remember she would read verses from her own work and from the great masters of Urdu poetry with complete ease and immense refinement. In the short period of time that she lived as a poet, Parveen did rather well and was quite prolific. Her later collections comprised Sad Barg (marsh merrygold), Khud Kalami (conversing with one’self), Inkaar (refusal), Maah-e-Tamaam (full moon) and Kaf-e-Aaina (edge of the mirror).
Her raw romanticism runs through her poetry. For instance, ye haseen shaam apni is a love poem of rare beauty; and has always been a favourite of mine. It is composite, taut and melodic; and here is my translation. […]

December 26th, 2015|Published in The Friday Times|3 Comments

It Has Been Written

Last night I stumbled upon this translation of Parveen Shakir’s poem (Navishta) rendered by C M Naim. This is where she addresses her only son on the perils of living with a famous mother. Parveen was extraordinary and her poems continue to cajole, haunt and address the readers.
“. . . then […]

January 16th, 2009|Arts & Culture, Poetry, Translations, Urdu, Urdu Literature|12 Comments

A poem of love and longing by Parveen Shakir

I rediscovered this exquisite poem by Parveen Shakir after years. This is an intense love poem of rare beauty. It is composite, taut and melodic. I have tried to translate it – however, the impossibility of a translation haunts me..

More so, the reality of days gone by, […]

We Are All Dr Faustus – Parveen Shakir

Last month, in the freezing climes of Islamabad, we talked about Parveen Shakir, Pakistan’s popular poet who died at a young age.

One of Parveen’s poems invokes the legend and metaphor of Dr Faustus:

‘The name ‘Faust’ has become deeply rooted in European mythology as the […]