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This review is taken from PN Review 204, Volume 38 Number 4, March - April 2012.

Boldness and Passion Modern Poetry of Pakistan, edited by Iftikhar Arif (Dalkey Archive Press) £12.99

This is a necessary collection in at least three ways. It brings into English a rich and varied tradition of poetry in a number of languages, almost all of them flourishing in societies where poetry is not just an academic matter. It counteracts the tendency among mainstream English-speakers to ignore literatures in other languages, particularly non-European ones. And, finally, it resists the trend - now even furthered by what is sometimes called 'post-colonialism' - to focus not only on English-language texts but, even more problematically, on texts written in English by people with non-European names born and educated largely in Europeanised spaces.

Edited by Iftikhar Arif and with translations (by various translators) edited by Waqas Khwaja, Modern Poetry of Pakistan presents selected poems by more than 40 poets: these are all poets who were writing when Pakistan was created in 1947 or who have written in various languages since then. A number of these poets have been translated from Urdu, which, one can claim, is the only Pakistani language that was largely (but not entirely) brought into Pakistan by refugees after the Partition in 1947. But the anthology also has interesting selections from other Pakistani languages, including such major ones as Punjabi and Sindhi, which were cut into two by the Partition and are also in use in India (though impacted upon on both sides by what can only be termed 'script-cleansing'!).

Some of the poets, mostly the Urdu ones, are almost household names across ...


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