‘On Unknown Seas to Unknown Shores’

A selection of over 200 poems by Dr Maqbool Elahi was published by a literary forum.

Mushir Anwar April 02, 2011
On Unknown Seas to Unknown Shores’ is a selection of over 200 poems by Dr Maqbool Elahi published by Dr Ikram Azam’s Pakistan Futurist Institute and Margalla Voices, a literary forum.

This collection of verse spans a period of over 60 years, from 1955 to 2010, and covers a range of subjects and themes that long life itself (Dr Elahi is in his 90s now) introduces besides work, travel and reading.

Many of the poems have a personal reference as to occasion, locale, event or experience are bunched under different general themes: ‘Edifice of Destiny’, ‘We Meet to Part’, ‘Lonely Time’, ‘Whither’?, ‘Fearful Hearts’, ‘Scanning Horizons’, ‘I stood Alone’, ‘Unity in Pieces’, ‘Of Medley Moods’, ‘Mission of Understanding’, ‘Rubaiyat’, and ‘Someone in Me Who’s Always Free’.

In his own words, many of these poems “are personal but” the Doctor asks, “is not the person of a person also the universal person. My grief (sic) and sorrows, my predicaments, my appreciations, my longings, my observations, my feelings, views, apathies, sympathies, empathies, my expressions may also have been experienced by many a person in this wide wide (sic) world.” He hopes that “the English speaking world may appreciate the eastern form and rhythm.”

What Dr Ikram Azam has said in his effusive preface to the book would prevent any pusillanimous reviewer from or adding to his open hearted assessment of the poetical work of someone he has known for long personally, and whom he regards as his mentor and at one time ‘most benevolent boss’ (when they were working in the Income Tax Department).

Dr Azam said, “My one and only comment and core point is that Dr Saheb’s poetry is a true reflection of his personality and his life.” The present volume is his magnum opus and labour of love in terms of his original verse in English. It is his poetical autography: the story of his soul and the legend of his life, his heart. His recurrent themes are: Nature, human nature, and the human situational dilemmas: war and peace, exploitation, poverty, imperialism, colonialism and serfdom versus freedom.

Its several parts under different titles are really so many slim books of poetry; slim by choice because of his selectivity. He writes like a devout Muslim and a patriotic Pakistani. Dr Elahi is a Sufi seer and sage, mystic and futurist, thinker, researcher, analyst, multi-linguist, translator, prose-stylist and poet par excellence. As a poet, he is sensitive, but sensibly so. He is both sympathetic and empathetic, profoundly so. His poetry is honestly subjective, when he talks of issues close to his heart, like love at its sublimest (sic) and subtlest self. But this makes his poetry altruistically global. Dr Maqbool Elahi’s poetical style is his own.

It is, above all, succinctly elliptical, and epigrammatic, in the best classical Araby and Farsi tradition, especially the elliptical and epigrammatic quality of the Holy Quran. As a creative artist, poet and linguist, Dr Elahi is most interested in and expressive of the innate nexus between thought, feeling and word, expression, and language. Whatever the form and expression, style, mood or mode of his verse, Dr saheb’s poetry is truly experiential. Therefore, [it is] honestly, truly and sincerely straight from his heart and soul. Thus does it rapport touchingly with the reader’s psyche?”

As we say in Urdu (qalam tor diya), after this flourish of his pen, Dr Ikram Azam must have broken it.

Published in The Express Tribune.

Mushir Anwar A weekly columnist at The Express Tribune who has previously written for other publications. He also writes and translates short stories.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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