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Women's History Month

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Parveen Shakir

Do you read in multiple languages? Which genres/writers are your favorites?

Happy Women’s History Month lovelies! To celebrate March, I’ve decided to do a series of posts about women writers and creators who’ve had a great influence on my life and work. Thus, what better place than to start with the legendary Pakistani poet Parveen Shakir.

Parveen Shakir is credited with forever changing the landscape of Urdu poetry due to her bold, lyrical introduction and usage of “feminine pronouns” in a genre heralded by masculine gaze and male poets. She primarily wrote in two styles, the غزل [ghazal] and آزاد نظم [āzād-nazm | free verse] with a unique flayer that amalgamated classical eastern tradition and modern sensitivity. The red book in the photograph titled خشبو [Khushbu | Fragrance] was her first publication and was awarded many awards. However, the word “khushbu” is a predominant reoccurrence in her work and she often uses it’s intangible force to carve a tangible metaphor that eludes to the impalpable and emotional, i.e. a broken heart, an unfaithful lover, a welcoming embrace.

The most well-known example is perhaps her most famous work, a ghazal immortalized in the voice of the incomparable Mehdi Hassan Sahab.

کو بہ کو پھیل گئی بات شناسائی کی
اس نے خوشبو کی طرح میری پذیرائی کی

Ku ba ku phel gai baat shanasi ki | The secret of our acquaintance has dispersed everywhere,
Us ne khushbu ki tarah meri pazirai ki | He praised/exalted me the way a fragrance permeates.

It was my mother who first introduced me to Shakir’s poetry. I’d hear her quote the majestic romantic verses and then misty-eyed, bless the poet for her stunning imagery. And while I do not possess Amaan’s memory or style when speaking or reciting poetry, her enchantment intrigued to dive into Shakir’s work. It’s a love that has lasted for life.

Have you read Shakir’s work? What’s your favorite couplet? Let’s chat in the comments!

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