Finishing Line Press has just published my collection of poems Indus Suite, which is now available at www.finishinglinepress.com and www.amazon.com. Regrettably (except for an extract serving as a blurb on the back cover) there was no room for the introduction that Pakistani poet Fahmida Riaz so kindly and generously wrote when this collection was first coming together. Here is that "Forward," word for word. PLS
How did I become her friend, when I have never had even a
nodding acquaintance with anyone belonging to the diplomatic community? Neither before nor after her. (This unconscious striving to keep a
respectful distance must be mutual!) And
yet I went to her so often, sought her company so frequently while she was here
that I was sometimes the first reader or listener of these poems.
I read them or listened to them in silence and
wonderment. There is something
inexplicable about them. Something that
defies all notions of keeping one=s
distance, remaining aloof, or minding one=s
I have marveled at them because these poems could have been
writtten by a Pakistani. A sane
Pakistani who loved this land and grieved for it. They could be written by me.
Did I write them, too?
I can see lines from my own poems echoing in hers. Of course, Patricia never read them. They are all in Urdu, which she could not
read. Nor did I even read them out to
her. Translating them into English would
have been a bother.
But when I read in ACover
You who dare
to hide my handiwork
in windowless rooms,
in coffin-like cells,
and call yourselves
you brain dead
jailors of body and soul,
to suffocate daughters and wives
for the crime of being
I marvel at her passionate involvement and think of my own
aur Chardivari@ (AChadar and Four Walls@)
Sire, what shall I do with this black chadar.
Why do you bestow it upon me,
Or, in AStatic,@ when she writes
and the soul
praying for better times.
Today, from these honking, wired minarets
no love flows.
My compassion reaches out
I recall my own poem AKhakam
Badahan@ (AApostacy Be Cursed@)
The Mullahs are at each others throats,
in a corner.
Yes, these poems were written by me, too. In a different room. In a different language. Because Pat Sharpe is above all, a woman. Her poetry effectively cuts through the barriers of nationality, caste and religion to reveal the bare bones of womanhood.
to the lark
on a lark
on a merry-go-round
listen to the lark
with a sore
and feeling dizzy, I discovered why I miss her so. She is a poet really. She was only masquerading as a diplomat. This has been an on and off delusion of hers. Let us hope she gives us more. More poems.
August 13, 1999