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Published on Oct 29, 2009
Taraz: A fresh voice in poetry
First the pain comes through; in its train comes resistance. The pain of dislocation. Of carnage all around. Of precarious existence. Then comes an unanticipated turn. Of hope. Of promise. Of fulfillment. Here is poetry steeped in legacies of yesterday, seized of urgencies of today, ever-aspiring to deliverance of tomorrow. Here comes a fresh voice giving Urdu and Punjabi poetry a new turn. Thanks to YouTube, Farooq Taraz, a favorite on the mushaira circuit in North America, has arrived.
In this age of globalized dislocation, perhaps it was unavoidable that the poetry of the land of five rivers of South Asia should find its new herald in, of all places, Berkeley. Perhaps only in Berkeley, the venerable cradle of the free-speech movement, the anti-war movement, the youth movement, and the counter-culture movement, could a fresh and defiant diasporic voice find license.
Taraz has a formidable canvas. Love and tyranny, laughter and heart-ache, light and darkness tangle in an escalating musical dance. And yes, the music. Frames of the classical masters, themes of the sages, and lightness of the Lolywood silver screen get braided in melodious harmonies. Melodies most certainly, but never loosing the cutting edge of resistance.
Where conventions of poetry are accommodated, social conventions are not. Here is poetry of protest. Gender oppression, religious bigotry, and political suffocation furnish the sub-text; often the text itself. There are no sacred cows here; no safe harbors. Those who want to play it safe, better stay away (you can always watch when no one is around).
All this is just the beginning of what promises to be an exciting poetic journey. Fasten your seat-belts folks; we are in for a memorable ride.
Tayyab Mahmud, Ph.D., J.D. Professor of Law Director, Center for Global Justice SEATTLE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW