'A Stylized Motif of Eagle Wings Woven': The Selected Poems of Zulfikar Ghose

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Author: Alamgir Hashmi
Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Date: 2005
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 3,267 words

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[(review date winter 1992) In the following review, Hashmi traces the themes of displacement and exile in Ghose's poetry from his earliest works to his previously unpublished and newer poems collected in Selected Poems.]

Born in Sialkot in 1935, Zulfikar Ghose moved with his family to Bombay in 1942 and to England following the Partition. His first book of poems appeared in London in 1964, and he became well known as a poet from Pakistan. In quick succession came short stories, novels, and an autobiography, as well as journalism and other writings. By the time he left England for the United States in 1969, he was already a writer to reckon with in several genres.

Although during the last twenty-five years his fiction list has come to dominate the publishers' charts and the reviewers' prime slots, he remains a writer who has practiced poetry consistently since the late 1950s, when his early poems began to be published in British magazines. Ever since, his poems have appeared regularly in magazines, anthologies, textbooks, broadcasts, and individual collections. Over the years Pakistani magazines and anthologies have also carried some of his work, though hardly any of his books has been issued in Pakistan as yet. The Selected Poems therefore fills a crying gap.

The fifty-three poems chosen by Ghose for this volume have been drawn from his three poetry collections and a previous New and Selected Poems published in the United States. He has added substantially to the number chosen for the latter stateside volume, and not only with new, uncollected poems. Some items in the earlier collections which he excluded from A Memory of Asia: New and Selected Poems (declaring that "the ones not included in this volume do not now strike me as worthy of anyone's attention") have happily made their way back here and will survive. On the other hand, the twenty new poems carried in A Memory of Asia are reduced here to eleven, whereas the twelve uncollected and included here for the first time are a treat over previous decisions of immediate excision and removal whose only remedy for the faithful reader was either the original editions or the now equally hard-to-obtain Penguin Modern Poets 25.

Still, excision, removal, and survival are not just the practical aspects of compiling Ghose's book(s); these are forces which have informed both his life and his creative work. As a child he suddenly found himself chucked out of his original habitat; as a youth he had to leave the landscape to which he was accustomed and cope with a new environment with which he could never be at one without the doubtful aid of "external" interferences and attachments; as a man he had to consider his roots, rely on memory, and invent a language that would make sense of the contemporary world for him who has all but lost his "home." Partition and exile, and the attendant socioreligious traumas, have not been written about enough in our literature, particularly in verse of...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100063029