The poetry of survivors: Afzal Ahmed Syed’s work reflects reality

Published: June 17, 2015
His collection 'Rococo and Other Worlds' draws upon his experiences in troubled places. PHOTO:çaise-de-Karachi

His collection 'Rococo and Other Worlds' draws upon his experiences in troubled places. PHOTO:çaise-de-Karachi

KARACHI: The pain and agony in Afzal Ahmed Syed’s work is rooted in his experiences in troubled places. From East Pakistan — now Bangladesh — to Beirut, Lebanon, and now Karachi, the writer had the opportunity to view reality from a different dimension. His poetry is a reflection of what has happened in these places.

Explaining the elements that shaped his work, Syed was in conversation with writer Asif Farrukhi at the launch of his poetry collection ‘Rococo and Other Worlds’, translated from Urdu to English by author Musharraf Ali Farooqi, organised by the Desi Writers Lounge at Alliance Francaise on Monday.

Syed, described by Farrukhi as one of the leading contemporary poets whose work struck a balance between nazm and ghazal, revealed that his first poem was only published when he was 28. “Before that, I was probably in the incubation period,” he remarked, adding that since ghazals were heavily loaded with Persian words, he wanted to come up with a new poetic style.

Farrukhi pointed out that Syed had not only read but also translated Western authors, upon which the latter disclosed that poetry about Poland and communism had greatly inspired him. “It was the poetry of survivors and I consider myself a survivor of a holocaust too,” he said, referring to his experiences. “There is a strong message in these events that no matter how bad conditions are, people resist. If we raise our voices, no one will have the courage to persecute us.”

On a lighter note, Farrukhi inquired whether he looked for these troublesome cities or if it was the cities that found him. He replied that there had been a thrill to living in Beirut. “One aspect common to each of these places is that they never recovered to their previous state.”

Afia Aslam, from the Desi Writers Lounge, read out one of Syed’s poems, with the ending verses reverberating in the hall. “We must forget that from the rubble called the heart, anyone can be salvaged alive. Some words we must altogether forget, for instance humanity.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2015.

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