Abrar-ul-Hasan. Daire: Nas^meN. Published privately by the
author with help from the Directorate of Multiculturalism, Ottawa, Canada, 1983. 183 pp.
I was first introduced to Abrar-ul-Hasan's poetry in 1979 when he was kind enough to let me have a look at a photocopy of the handwritten manuscript of his poems. That collection was titled Lamha Lamha ("Moment by Moment"). The present volume Daire ("Circles") is a*somewhat abridged and tidied-up version of that earlier volume. Abrar-ul-Hasan has taken out the weaker poems from the earlier volume, thus giving the present one a tighter and more unified form and greater thematic cohesiveness. He was obliged to change the title of the book because he found out that a certain film actress in India had published her autobiography with the same title Lamha Lamha.
Abrar-ul-Hasan has spent the last twenty years or so of his life in Canada, away from the major centers of Urdu poetry in Pakistan. In so doing, he has made a definite gain: he has escaped being bracketed with one or the other group or school of poetry in Pakistan, and it is quite well-known that there have been more than half a dozen such groups in the past thirty years of Pakistan's literary history. Even though one does notice in Abrar-ul-Hasan1s poetry some intellectual and verbal affinities with some contemporary Urdu poets, those affinities are a matter of his own choice rather than being an outcome of the historical coincidence of being in Lahore or Karachi with a certain group of writers at a certain time.
Abrar-ul-Hasan's poetry is the poetry of a thinking, searching, probing and inquiring mind, a mind which is quite unwilling to accept easy, convenient and ready-made answers to metaphysical inquiries, answers that are usually offered by religious dogma and intellectual tradition. In one of his poems, "Sasta"("Cheap"), he states his choices and declares his artistic credo: in the battlefield that is life, he says, it is so easy/ cheap to have faith, and so difficult/costly to doubt and question:
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No matter what the cost, he chooses to ask questions and to find out the answers. His poetry, by virtue of the choices he has made, becomes a demanding piece of work, often requiring considerable concentration from the reader in order for it to make its meaning manifest. The addition of a rather longish explanatory preface to the book has been necessitated by the same choice. Abrar-ul-Hasan states that some of his readers have found it difficult to follow the logic of his philosophical thought or to recognize the progression in it. I believe that such difficulty is caused, if it is caused, more by the reader's lack of familiarity with Abrar-ul-Hasan's approach than by the issues his poetry deals with. His poetry is neither obscure nor does it