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Gopal Lahiri

Ayaz Rasool Nazki
Songs of Light
Collection of Poems
Kolkata: Writers Workshop, 2017
ISBN: 978-93-5045-150-2
Pp 104 | 200

Poems of eloquent silence on Kashmir

Songs of Light, the debut collection of English poems by Ayaz Rasool Nazki is an exploration of the force of nature in Kashmir and its organic desorption of the human existence which freely create and assert and invoke the invigorating coarseness in grieving lives.

In his Foreword, Maharaj Kishan Santoshi has rightly pointed out ‘Like all of us, Ayaz Rasool Nazki has witnessed the dark times of our history and for relief he looks out to nature and takes refuge in its multiple moods. The childlike innocence returns to him and nature becomes his companion.’

For all the imbalances in the environs, that tumult and harsh realities have reflected in his poems and reveal the larger truth of how emotional suffering can make people feel isolated and disturbed. People have a clichéd way of looking at the struggle but Nazki believes that Nature is a true healer and provides endless imaginings of life.

I saw the trees
being reborn from old wounds
in the earth

The poet laments ‘As in my Kashmiri and Urdu poetry, Kashmir breathes into every word that I write in English too. Kashmir has become an obsession and sometimes a limitation for most Kashmiri poets/writers. It leaves us with no space to think of anything else.’

While all that’s been going on, searching for identity and hope, empathy is growing in manifold redeeming lights in the darkness and dragging up feelings buried in oblivion. The specifics are sharply drawn in his write and provide in-depth contemplation on pain and trauma in surrounding terror.

They came
and put the landscape on fire
the tulips
of multitude of colours
a thousand hues
and then they withered
ash to ash
colour to colourless
(They came)

The poet trusts ‘There is little something of God in all of us, a little bit more in those who struggle with the creative impulse. All writers want to read. And that’s the long and short of it.’ He is particularly interested in sound of nature. Executed with a commendable touch of softness and repetitive cadences, his poems at times sing to the whole world ‘expressing nuances of expression.’

I will sing light
in this dark night
words of rays
will pierce the air
and sentences
will light up the sky
(I will sing light)

Many of his poems never seeks the new, rather the breathing, not cleverness but directness and this perhaps the greatest strength of the poet. As if you have to debate within yourself what sort of resistance is acceptable and what goes too far.

Birds were told
of the sanctions
the no-fly zone
but birds have feathers and wings
they are not Teflon coated
radar guided
they fly anywhere
in any direction
like the drones
but birds bring peace
where no no-fly zones are required.
(Birds were told)

The poet has the inclination to look at things straight on, to seek the truth even if it isn’t to be found and debunk the illusion at the end. It’s how his brain and soul are hardwired. Never told in an intense frowny face, nor anger burns from every word, his reading of the passing of nature is deftly sketched and chilling. The bottom-line is that you should interrogate history and do not take any word to heart per say and let it come alive for yourself.

Will it so happen
that even after I am gone
the sun will rise as before
the breeze will move over the hills
the clod will bring refreshing rains
the meadow will turn emerald green
upon the advent of spring …
(Will it so happen)

He is ready to make things happen in language that’s not wholly dependent on realities. The images are wonderfully fresh, simple and riveting.

Leaping flames every night rise up from my bed
touch the timber on the ceiling
knock at the wooden roof
and then retract onto their roots
enter my quilt and saunter into my dreams
(Leaping flames every night rise up from my bed)

Paradox is at the core of his imaginative intelligence, burning there like a lamp on a dark night. This can be observed in these viscerally real and highly charged poems,

Glass windows
for the blind

High ceilings
for the dwarf

Wide roads
for closed minds

Huge mansions
for small men.
(Uptown Kashmir)


They had
latticed windows
they had
they had
low ceilings
they had

they had
narrow lanes

they had
open minds
(Downtown Kashmir)

It seems the poet understands the host of fears overtaking him at rare moments. The emptiness around, the difficulty of existence, the achingly loneliness, the political situation and violence; awareness of the helplessness arouses a great uneasiness in him, and the impulse to write;

Yet again
the same question
and yet again
the same reply
no reply
(Yet again)

The voices offer possibilities to a poet, but one needs to have control of them and not disappear among them. Nazki has that rare voice which is eloquent in silence and the landscape of Kashmir always works its way in his poems. Sometimes his poignant poems instil kindred spirit in our soul where silence does almost all the talking about ‘a new dawn’. The poet is looking forward to welcome the day ‘when we throw off our fetters, tear open our blindfolds, and sing to the whole world, of deliverance, hope, peace and beauty.’

Light is my friend
Absence of darkness
And voices
Are a digression
In silence:
(River of Silence)

Ayaz Rasool Nazki is one of the most eloquent and appealing poets of our generations who has recorded in his poems albeit in a subtle way the misery of terror and the beauty of the world beyond in nature. He has already two strong voices in two languages, Kashmiri and Urdu and this first collection of poems in English is equally formidable.

Writers Workshop books always provide the visual beauty of hand stitching and sari cloth woven design. Songs of Light is something you can’t turn away from. And surely, it’s a compelling read for every poetry lover.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR as from the publisher’s website:

Professor Ayaz Rasool Nazki is the Regional Director at Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, in Srinagar, Kashmir. He comes from a family of scholars and poets, was trained as a biological scientist, and taught science. He has written both poetry and prose in Kashmiri and Urdu, and has published a number of volumes of poetry in these languages. His other works include a novel, which is in the final stages of production and a translation of a selection of his father, the legendary poet-scholar Mir Ghulam Rasool Nazki’s classic Kashmiri rubayiaat or quatrains into English, titled EchoSongs of Light is his first collection of English poems.


Issue 78 (Mar-Apr 2018)

Book Reviews
  • Ambika Ananth: Wet Radio and Other Poems
  • Ananya Sarkar: The Legend of Kuldhara
  • Ashish Negi: Murder in a Minute
  • Atreya Sarma U: One Rotten Apple & Other Stories
  • Gopal Lahiri: Songs of Light
  • Gopal Lahiri: The Portrait of a Verse
  • Lipipuspa Naik: Tibetan Caravans
  • Madhumita Majumdar: Not in My Name
  • Paromita Sengupta: Don’t Run, My Love
  • Patricia Prime: Growing Within
  • Semeen Ali: Available Light
  • Sunaina Jain: The Wanderlust Conspiracy