Birmingham Celebrates the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz
The Drum, the national centre for Black British culture and arts, dedicated to developing and promoting the contemporary art and culture of British African, Asian and Caribbean communities is celebrating the centenary of the birth of the Muslim poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, (1911-1984) who is considered one of the greatest Asian poets of the 20th century.
Faiz was a renowned Urdu poet from Pakistan, born in 1911 in British India in the small Punjabi village of Kala Kadar near Sialkot. He was educated initially in a mosque school and then in Scott and Murray Mission School in Sialkot and subsequently went to Lahore. His first degree was about English Literature while his masters degree was about Arabic literature. He also mastered Persian and Urdu languages.
The late Palestinian American literary theorist – Edward W. Said said “The powerful in the global politics want the perpetuation of their control through handpicked cronies and lackeys in different countries. We will need poets like Faiz and Neruda to expose them and give us courage to fight against them”
In the 1930s, Faiz became active in the Progressive Writers’ Association, a powerful cultural movement that shaped the struggle against the British Empire in India. He also joined the Communist Party of India. After the partition of India in 1947, he remained committed to the movement and was influential in developing the newly-formed Communist Party of Pakistan.
Apart from being a great poet, Faiz edited several journals and newspapers, and authored film scripts and documentaries. His inspirational poetry and prose won him the accolade of being the first Asian poet to be awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963, and he was also nominated for the Nobel Prize four times. His works have been translated into many languages.
Faiz’s poetry articulates the aspirations, anguish, pain and suffering of not only the people of Pakistan but of the whole world. He used his creativity and colossal international status as a poet to fight for the rights of the poor, the dispossessed and the oppressed.
Lionised by the masses at home and abroad, Faiz nevertheless incurred the wrath of military dictatorships in Pakistan and spent many stints in prison for his political values and beliefs, eventually leading to periods of exile. It was whilst in exile that he spent time in Birmingham and developed close ties with the city and its people.
From his poems I have chosen few lines:
At this moment it seems like nothing exists
No moon, no Sun, neither darkness nor radiance
In front of eyes, there is some beauty behind laced curtains
In the domains of heart, some pain resides
May be it is just an illusion or may be something I heard
In the street, there are sounds of someones vanishing footsteps
Perhaps in the dense tree, in fancys boughs
No dream will ever come to seek refuge.
No estrangement, no affection, no involvement
No one is yours, for me no one a stranger
It is true, this lonesome moment is very cruel and testing
But, O my heart, this is only just a moment,
Take courage, there is all the time that remains to live