The Dawn: Jul 24, 2015

PUNJAB NOTES: Irshad Taunsvi: poetic reflections

Mushtaq Soofi 

Irshad Taunsvi, a renowned Seraiki poet and writer, has in his creative expression a tranquillity which reflects an intellectual maturity and emotional richness not frequently found among our contemporary poets most of whom appear to be intellectually pretentious and emotionally hollow. Poets, found in innumerable number here, are usually either too tradition bound or superficially modernistic. The former add to the rotting detritus of the past in the name of tradition and the latter add to the shiny literary litter in the name of modernity. Both fail to experience the reality of the contemporary world that defies the well-defined boundaries between the local and the global.

Irshad as a poet retains from the tradition what is dynamic and takes from modernity what is illuminating in such a fashion that his verses create a textured landscape with their tactile sensation and soft whispers. He along with Abid Ameeq is among the few who pioneered the art of composing modern Seraiki poetry in 1970s. Their creative encounter and interaction with a group of Lahore-based poets and writers writing in Punjabi in that period paved the way for them to evolve a new form of poetry. Almost all the Seraiki poets till then composed poetry full of bombast and verbiage, good enough to rouse the public passions in poetry recitals but was as good as dead when printed because it lacked the intellectual depth, a hallmark of written word worth the name. Chewing the cuds thrown up by banal poetic conventions continues to be vaudeville somehow all across Punjab.

The ordinary world painted in Irshad’s poetry is intertwined with his subjective space to the extent that the lines between the social and the personal stands blurred creating a delicate unity of the objective and the subjective.The objective conceived subjectively becomes poet’s interior and the subjective conceived objectively turns into his exterior. The world recreated becomes the world reinterpreted. “At times it happens: no lightning, no rains but the roof starts dripping. At times it happens: a bit of the green sprouts out of brick walls. The sun peeps through a chink in the door into the room. The warmth of unfamiliar hands seems moving all over your body. And you hear; drum beats somewhere out there”.

His poetic vision at some level is inspired by the practices of saints and revolutionaries who refuse to submit to the world as it exists dominated by the powerful to the exclusion of the people whose productive efforts make it what it is. It cannot continue with its ways if it is to be a shareable asset; natural and man-made. But his voice though firm is not loud; it simply warns in a suggestive manner. “We are crystal clear as is the water of a still lake/ but beneath is the moss and the moss is all around/ days have gone past and we wait around for some bird, the herald of change in the season or some runaway current from the deep overflowing river; waves inundating the sand dunes, the desolate thatched cottages and the aged pens/ the wind filling the sails and boats’ keels sketching new ways/ change of the song; monsoon with its fresh messages/ we are eternally bonded with what lies on the other side/ tell those who sit ensconced on the dunes: find out some high ground before the rise of the tide”.

A poet who for the want of imagination has creative incapacity to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary fails as poet. It’s the ordinary that forms the bedrock of life. But it tends to lose meanings because of its ubiquitous presence. That’s why some poets in their misguided perception hanker after the extraordinary. May be some time in their fortuitous search they stumble upon a serendipitous gift but usually they end up churning glittering trash out as the extraordinary does not exist in the human and natural world that can be described as poetic per se.There is in fact nothing poetic about the ordinary or the extraordinary, the common or the uncommon. It’s the way of looking at things that make them poetic or non-poetic.

Irshad seems to intuitively know this as apparently non-poetic stuff emerges as poetic in his creative expression. “The backyard of our home looks like our lawn. The family members stroll around the lawn and take sunbath. No one goes to the backyard where one can see a ducks’ nest, a pen and two mango trees. Whenever the trees are in blossom, the children and the adults all come rushing and guess: ‘more fruit this year!’ They look like a smart peasant who surveying his fields assesses the crop yields. I have never been in the business of assessing things. I don’t like the ducks either. What I like is the bird perched on the branch of the big tree up in the air, the bird that is elusive and out of reach”.

Irshad lives life of a near recluse in an outhouse called ‘Ashram’ close to the ancient town of Taunsa situated on the periphery of the Punjab but his presence as a poet and writer is not peripheral at all. Taunsa, the most literate area in the south Punjab, can rightly be proud of a number of its poets, writers and scholars such as Ustad Fida Hussain Gadi, Iqbal Sokri and Ashsan Wagha and Mushtaq Gadi, to name a few. Irshad is currently busy finishing his novel, which when published, would hopefully be a significant literary event.

Irshad’s poetry compels the readers to pause and reflect on the experiences that are mundanely mysterious and mysteriously mundane creating an ambiance that evokes painful silence and joyful noise of our complex but culturally eviscerated contemporary life at sensory and imaginative levels. —

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