The Pakistan Academy of Letters first published a selection of Pakistani poetry and prose in 1990, and for many years this tradition was kept alive on an annual basis. But, in 2008, the then chairman decided to shelf the programme and thus for many years the yearly publication remained shut.
The present chairman of the academy, Dr Qasim Bughio, took up the initiative of starting the publication once again. All credit for publishing two annual volumes, one of poetry and one of prose, goes to the chairman who supervised the issues. It is due to him that the much delayed issues from the last decade will be appearing one by one.
The two volumes that I intend to review are the academy’s poetry and prose selections from 2010.
Idris Babur, one of the most innovative, versatile and well-read modern poets, has made selections from poetry that was published in 2010 and has done a remarkable job at it. At the start of the compilation, Babur mentions that he rummaged through thousands of pages of poetry in order to select poems which he deemed fit to be included. His selection is distinguished because one can see that he put in a lot of effort in selecting worthy verses instead of hastily compiling poems together.
Historically, in the academy’s compilations, the poetry section comprised predominantly ghazals and only a small portion was allotted to nazms. Babur, on the other hand, has given an equal share to ghazals and nazms in his selection, this makes the volume stronger.
In the portion attributed to ghazals, apart from heavyweights like Ahmad Mushtaq, Iftikhar Arif, Aftab Hussain, Saqi Farooqi, Izharul Haq, Khurshid Rizvi and others, there is an entire brigade of poets who charm the readers with their sterling craftsmanship: Shaheen Abbas, Idris Babur, Shanawar Ishaq, Daniyal Tareer, Irfan Sattar, Akhtar Usman, Zulfiqar Adil, Ziaul Mustafa Turk, Kashif Hussain Ghyre, Mubarak Shah, Ali Iftikhar Jaffri, Nasim Abbasi, Muhammad Hanif and Akhtar Raza Saleemi.
The nazm section, studded with many stars, is equally a real treat for lovers of Urdu literature. The section holds nazms of superb poets like Wazir Agha, Aftab Iqbal Shamim, Anis Nagi, Asad Muhammad Khan, Daud Rehbar, Sarmad Sehbai, Kishwar Naheed as well as some poets of later generations who made their presence felt. Abrar Ahmad, Anwar Fitrat, Javed Anwer, Waheed Ahmad, Farrukh Yar, Ali Akbar Natiq, Syed Kashif Raza, Zahid Imroz and Arshad Meraj deserve to be lauded for their nazms.
The issue on poetry was revised by noted poet Sabir Zafar.
The selection for the prose issue of the year 2010 has been done by Ahmad Javed, a senior fiction writer, who was aided by Muhammad Hameed Shahid, a novelist and fiction writer in his own right. The duo selected more than 30 short stories to represent the best of fiction of the year. Apart from seniors like Asad Muhammad Khan, Rasheed Amjad, Mansha Yad, Mahmood Ahmad Qazi, we have a whole range of fiction writers who adorn the volume. The stories of Asad Muhammad Khan, Aslam Sirajuddin, Rasheed Amjad, Irfan Ahmad Urfi, Ali Akbar Natiq, Mahmood Ahmad Qazi, and Muhammad Hameed Shahid offer a diverse panoramic view of the Pakistani short story.
A small section of the publication has been reserved for criticism and here we find articles of senior and junior critics side by side. The late learned scholar, Muhammad Kazim, has written a detailed article on the life of Ibne Khaldun as well as his mammoth contribution to the philosophy of history. Nasir Abbas Nayyar is as well-entrenched as ever as he seeks to search new paradigms to judge fiction. Young poet and critic Qasim Yaqoob has written a good article on the poetry of Meeraji as he unravels the secret behind the intractable poems of the great poet. Another young critic, Imran Azfar, treads the same path as he enlightens us about the craftsmanship of Meeraji. Dr Iqbal Afaqi does an analytical study on the concept of civilisation.
Both issues of Pakistani Adab 2010 should be read by those wishing to learn about what is happening on the literary front. The selectors need to be feted for toiling hard to select such worthy literature.
Selected by Idris Babur
Price: Rs 250
Revised by Sabir Zafar
Pakistani Adab (Nasr)
Selected by Ahmad Javed, Muhammad Hameed Shahid
Published by Pakistan Academy of Letters