If poets and lovers of poetry don't write, publish, read, and purchase poetry books
then we will have no say in the quality of our contemporary culture and no excuse
for the abuses of language, ideas, truth, beauty, and love in our cultural life.
Poet's Comments into the World
This is an on going column hosted by James Downs, poet and Associate Editor of Poetic
Matrix Press, addressing the ongoing impact of poets on our national dialog. He
invites comments from fellow poets and readers and will add them to this discussion
in the weeks that follow. Send comments to
Shadab Hashmi's new book of poetry KOHL & CHALK
"These poems ring with clarity, restraint and humanity. My admiration for Shadab
Zeest Hashmi's poetry continues to grow."
— Sam Hamill
Shadab's poetry does what some commentators over the years say is impossible; to
write extraordinary poetry while making a political statement. Shadab does this
and more. Her poetry is beautiful, there is no doubt about that, go to any page:
from Swat page 52
I would have bottled the tingle in birdsong
eaten the coconut-white river
climbed the far end of the ladder
and it is full of subtle and not so subtle political insight:
from The Road page 54
The sirens of her police escort
will neatly bury
of the explosion
in the mosque
but mostly she brings the two together, not to make the political beautiful, not
to make the horrible beautiful but to do as Gandhi said in a quote I once saw on
a high school teachers wall. " It has always been about beauty, always!"
from U.S. Air Strikes page 68
Just when I finished rinsing the carafe,
a whole city was under cement dust and smoke,
and I thought I heard screaming behind walls of fire
in the kettle's sharp whistle,
just when I added the cloves,
the last green lime.
You see she will not let you collapse into horror, she will demand that beauty stays
with you and heals you as she shows you what we do in each others name. What we
do and what we must not do, she shows us what in truth we must do, we must always
be about beauty.
You really must read all of this book.
John Peterson, publisher
"The bride who contemplates her half paralyzed face on the eve of marriage (in the
opening poem "Facial Palsy") is emblematic of the larger story of Pakistan: an ancient
culture fractured by new and divergent identities. The poet, like the bride whose
face is divided into "lit" and "dim" halves, gazes into the mirrors of history and
politics to make sense of the disjunctive parts that refuse to come together as
a whole. The very multiplicities of culture that the poet celebrates ("Socrates/mangoes
cut in cubes," "Iqbal's poems on marble construction paper," "rouge from Paris,
coconut oil from Orissa") are also the cause of dissonance ("War cries of the Greeks/
in plume red/Mongols/ in horse-leather red," "Gunga Din's ghost lifted from the
tennis courts/of Peshawar Club")— dissonance that is further amplified in the post-9/11
wars to which a Pakistani-American response in poetry has thus far been absent.
Kohl & Chalk is that response in the voice of a daughter, a mother, a global citizen."