Quratulain Qureshi presents a poem that sends across a message that the poet summarizes clearly, without embellishments, and in her own words: “It is wrong and highly problematic to equate the fight of a people for their rights and dignity with that of the oppressive methods of their persecutors. Hence, this poem: an address to the advocates of such a ‘pacifism’.”
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In a poem that invokes Edward Said’s memorable words in the first verse, Bayed Mubarak surprisingly takes an altogether different direction in engaging with a language of simplicity and childhood. A bird, Captain Fluf’, becomes a metaphor for innocence at a time when children have been killed with bombs that wouldn’t spare pigeons or any other life form—all under the pretext of self-defense and counter-terrorism. The poem might not communicate such things overtly, but the type of anger that is born from unimaginable violence is a clear motif that draws the point home with sarcastic bitterness.
Parray Shahid presents two grief-stricken poems that travel to a distant land and to its peoples, who in many ways are closer to the heart of Kasheer than any nearby neighbor—especially in what concerns a kinship formed from a state of subjugation, and sealed with a pact of resistance.
Abdulla Moaswes is originally from Jerusalem, Palestine. On a day such as this he presents a poem of remembrance against forgetting that returns to the days of his grandfather through a narration binding the dispossession and grief of one generation to another. The scholar and poet is inspired by Edward Said’s 1984 essay “Permission to Narrate” (published in The London Review of Books), where Said addresses the silencing and invisibilization that Palestinians faced in the international media while Zionists tirelessly propagated the myth of an Eden-like homeland—one that, according to them, was barren of inhabitants (conveniently made into ghosts) yet paradisiacal enough for an indefinite and still ongoing occupation. Beyond the need for an introduction, Abdulla’s poem speaks for itself, as his verses transit through time like remembrance transits through forgetting to keep memories alive, deep within the terrain of narration.
Young Kashmiri poet Zabirah Fazili returns with a timely ode to the perseverance of the Palestinian people at a difficult time made worse by an army of incursions. In expressing solidarity, her verses travel from the streets of Kashmir to the tear-gassed steps of a besieged mosque that has become a site of death, horror and injury in the holiest of months. The tenacity of these verses is a testament to the determination that characterizes two peoples, two lands and two struggles, with the poet seeing both as one.
Kashmiri poet Rumuz E Bekhudi brings us three poems that, although reflecting on the present predicament that Kashmiris are faced with, go far beyond to trace the lines where dispossession, suffering and tyranny are drawn, and with them the space where resistance is born and persists. These three can be read as individual pieces of poetry but remain tied together under the title “Pickle of Grief” because aside from the complex emotions that emanate from such verses, grief is perhaps the most palpable and common. Readers are advised to expect verses that are not easy to behold given the violence and brutality from which they emanate. However rigid the nature of such violence, it leaves cracks from where such poetic verses find momentum.
Mubashir Karim presents three poems of dissent and discontent placed within the long trajectory of resistance poetry that marks contemporary poetic expression in Kashmir. The three poems are linked by the themes of discontent and disillusionment and fueled by a cynicism, sarcasm and an apprehension that have become customary to Kashmiris trapped between hopelessness and grief, with no clear future in sight. However, beyond such undertones, there is the subtle echo of hope lingering somewhere in these verses for the current times.
The history of a peoples besieged by war is one felt close at home by many in Kashmir and beyond. Daaniyal Hassan’s poem connects that history to one known more widely, placing the subject of his six-part poem on an intersectional map between the violence of power and the resistance of the people. Entrapped in such a cartography and its “Museum of Little Things”, a poetic voice finds overlaps within a common experience, where a collective memory retrieves pages lost to dust. Regardless of the many historical references that may elicit some sort of comparison, the poem centers around a distinct poetic figure narrating a particular experience, like a Dante stuck in Inferno, far exiled from the ever-elusive Paradiso (made such with great purpose and design).
Will the bullets whisper the names
of those donning wool cloaks?
All the way from Benin City, Edward Elizabeth brings us three poems that reflect pain and perseverance through the depths of an anguish past yet fresh in the mind and latent in the soul. A young poet engaging with essential questions of life and death, destruction and creation, survival and healing, Elizabeth’s verses do not shy away from expressing a vulnerability felt far and wide by more than enough people around the world. These three poems were submitted before the times of global pandemic and perhaps serve to remind us that adversity is inherently linked to human life, while vulnerability is best conveyed as strength in the courage to write such verses.
On 15 March 2018, Madhosh Balhami lost his house and thirty years of written poetry to a fire in the middle of a gun battle between Indian soldiers and rebels. Producers and directors Irfan Dar and Gowhar Farooq have come up with a short documentary series on Kashmiri poetry titled “Madhosh Balhami: The Poet of Perseverance”. Here is an updated page with each of the episodes as they are released. In the first episode, Ghulam Muhammad Bhat (Madhosh Balhami) reminisces about “his early education and the trauma of losing his parents at a young age.” Balhami also revisits the “moment when he took to poetry to express his inner anguish” and recites one of his poems (with English subtitles). Camera by Mohammad Irfan Dar and translation by Hanan Zaffar. Additional links are included to familiarize readers and viewers with Madhosh Balhami’s story and greater work. All media embedded directly from original sources.
We present a poem that versifies the struggle and rise of those confined to death, disregard and abandonment while striving to survive. The poem as a song of individual and female resilience for the ages is presented here to commemorate the rise of a brown Middle Eastern man and his enduring legacy as the defender of the poor, the healer of the sick and the rescuer of the downtrodden.
Given that the poem ventures far beyond this particular cultural and religious context, it is also presented here quite simply as a perfect example of recitation by its poet. In the current predicament of our times, this poem builds upon the symbolic importance that it already holds the world over. This particular recitation affirms that importance in inspiring and uplifting while also providing solace to those who celebrate its verses, especially in times of great adversity.
Educator and poet Bupinder SIngh presents a timely poem on dissent and resistance and how these are misrepresented such that “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing” (as Malcolm X once famously said).
Medical-student-by-day and poet-and-writer-by-night Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan presents three poems that rise from the embodied soul and meditate on existence in verses that ride on simplicity yet convey the greater cultural complexity of the young Nigerian poet’s musings.