Poetic Novelty of Tanvir Abbasi as Modernist

Posted on December 12, 2007 |
Filed Under Sindhi Literature | Leave a Comment

(Tanvir Abbasi in Sindh, Pakistan needs no introduction. He is a celebrated poet, critic and author. He has twelve books on his credit and number of his compilations is much more. The following article of mine is a humble attempt to illuminate one of his literary aspects.)
When modernism took strong hold of creative minds of the world, the poetry started turning away from previous unwanted décor of language to natural speech of common man. It was influence of modernism that William Wordsworth felt obliged to enunciate in his 1802 preface of Lyrical Ballads that he wants to write “in a selection of language really used by men”. In literature, the modernism revealed a breaking away from established rules, traditions and convention. This modernization of literature continued into 20th century and the reaction to the old and out dated forms of expression gave birth to many other identifiable movements. The work of imagist poets like Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle, Amy Lowell, T.E Hulme and Richard Aldington carried the real essence of modernism. All of them supported the notion that a hard, clear image is essential to verse. They, with there unconventional approach, favored the convention of ‘being nearer to bone’. The idea of ‘being nearer to bone’ was first introduced by Ezra pound, the great American poet, critic, editor and translator. In about 1909, Ezra Pound became the founder of the school of poetry called imagism and favored brief verse which presents an intellectual and emotional ‘complex’ in an instant of time. Further, in poetic writings, Ezra pound wanted the poets to “directly treat the ‘thing’, whether subjective or objective”, and rhythm that was “in sequence of musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome”. Ezra Pound by his critical writings impressed the great majority of writers and poets round the globe. Sindhi literature, being the part of literary world, responded the influence of modernism and imagism. When we will glance through Sindhi poetry thoroughly, the eminent poets of Sindh like Tanveer Abbasi along with his contemporary writers Shaikh Ayaz, Narayan Shayam and Hari Dilgeer will emerge glittering as the pioneer of modernism as well as imagism in Sindhi.



Tanveer, like Ezra pound and other imagist writers was, committed to innovation. He was a modernist in real sense. Tanveer Abbasi’s yearning for new literary tradition uttered itself through introduction of poetic format of ‘Haiku’ from Japanese literature in Sindhi. Besides Haiku, his endeavors to give the clear account of the format of free verse have a great significance in Sindhi literature. Tanveer’s essays about the format of Haiku and free verse, that are included in his book ‘Tirvira’, were among the firsts in Sindhi about the subject.

The imagist movement began with an unconventional attitude to literary writing; the ‘succinct verse’ was declared essential by the writers of the imagist movement. Tanveer Abbasi has also stressed the importance of simplicity of language in the writings, he said in one of his speeches, “The writings of each era have there own diction, and language of every period has its own attitude. So, now a days, the writers who are using the classical language, I m not against them, it can be used, that’s a fine thing but it must be understandable to the readers of the age, so that it can prove useful”.


A poet carries a unique vision of the world. He percepts the things differently from his fellow beings and transforms his experiences into the words. He paints the images in his poetry and his mastery lies in the clearer depiction of his perceptions. In poetry, a poet presents the fine amalgam of his experience with poetic sensuality. It is the characteristic feature of lyrical poetry that a poet in his verses offers the vistas of nature along with deepest emotions. Tanveer Abbasi fits these criteria and has been known as the ‘Wordsworth of Sindhi’. It is very much evident from his poetry; in this context, I will quote few of his verses:


“Blowing wind has crossed the iron bars

And adore like thee, as if

In the dark woods of sorrows

It has brought thee


What if the painful night is so long?

Moon and stars light as always

Thy love has healed all the wounds

And thy admirers Smile always “


Poetry is the crown of language. Poetry is meant to extend the boundaries of language and experience. A poet writes when he discovers something new, something that is unique to him. Volkman, an instructor of poetry at New York University says, “Poetic voices of all kinds confront the unspeakable and push the limits of language and experience”. Same idea is beautifully highlighted by 20th-century American poet Michael Palmer, in his words, “How lovely the unspeakable must be. You have only to say it and it tells a story”. Tanveer Abbasi, in his poetry has always tried to speak the unspeakable and offered his novel experience of life. Once in his speech he said, “Poetry is not merely the expression of emotions, feelings, images or scenes; but the poetry indeed is, discovery of images and emotions. Its expression of such an image or emotion that is new to poetic world!”


The modern poetry is expected to discuss the concerns of common man. Brevity has also emerged as one of the implications of modernism. Tanveer also seems believing in both these characteristics of modernism. To him the poetry is meant to tell the secret of life in brief. We can hear this idea echoing in his verses, he says:


“Poetry tells indeed,

The secret of life in brief”


Tanveer knew the importance of classics. He was well aware of the fact that effectiveness of poetry depends upon the poetic practices of past. Hence, he did not want to loose the cultural richness of the poetry and simultaneously he didn’t want to give up his commitment to innovation. So, he rewrote the traditional folk tales with new ideas and ideology. He addressed the folk characters with modern approaches. His unique thoughts in this prospect thrilled the literary minds of his age and shed a great influence on his sucessors.


Tanveer Abbasi through his writings appears the staunch believer of the view of Ezra Pound who considered it ‘better to present one image in a life time than to produce voluminous works of art’. He can be considered as one of those poets who introduced the modern approaches in Sindhi literature. He left undying marks on the Sindhi poetry. His thoughts can be found breathing in his sucessors. A candle that was lit by him is lighting many more!

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