Marrying Philosophy and Poetry: Hasan Anzar's Poetical Works

Marrying Philosophy and Poetry: Hasan Anzar's Poetical Works

Life is an enigma for him and he is in search of someone, perhaps a master, to unravel it to him

If art is sacrifice (yajna), form of prayer, a discipline calling for contemplation and certain moral standards for the artists though not for the art itself, we can spot only few artists around.

Today art is an ideology, a thing to be exhibited and lobbied for awards, a commodity one can purchase. No wonder genuine artists and poets whom Plato thought are taught by God are rare, or not better known.  A genuine poet can’t be proud, he can’t brag, he can’t be accused of “straying in every valley” as his ethics, his faith in transcendence are there to keep him on the track.  

He carves a space in our hearts. Kazantzakis once remarked that “God is the Ah that comes when seeing any beautiful thing.” I think the criterion of genuine poetry is our spontaneous Ah on encountering it. This is made possible by marriage of profound thought and deep feeling besides a command over form.

All these points I recall after reading the man and the poet, Hassan Anzar who can be cited as illustrating classical, oriental and Islamic image of a genuine poet. Anzar’s oriental aesthetic, expressed by love for ghazal and attention to form, is an expression of his deep sense of tradition. Influenced by his select readings of classics in Indo-Persian  Islamic and Western literary culture and by great modern writers from Eliot to Iqbal who have traditionalist religio-mystical orientation, Anzar is  a beautiful person and a poet one can’t help admire, at least the best of him. He has his share of rather ordinary verses, a temptation to merely versify here and there, some verses where passion and thought don’t happily fuse, certain lack of charity or inability not to call spade a spade when it comes to judge rather frail mortals on both artistic and moral grounds that are his contemporaries, but what characteristically emerges as a dominant note is his enviable personality that we can’t help loving and at times fearing as his strong critical sense and sharp eye would spot our weaknesses and he will not hesitate to point out. 

Thanks to his background as officer in police department that made him encounter life’s ironies and pathologies and see it from very close quarters and his background as a formal serious student of literature and philosophy, our poet is better schooled in both life and letters to give us wonderfully humane poetry. Neither romantic nor mystic but someone who has both poles as if he is situated in the barzakh where imagination takes all things human as its province, Hassan Anzar is a poet who breathes faith, joy, meliorism, and freshness of spirit in an age where lesser poets are bowled by life’s little jokes and find it hard to find faith. He is a poet with a faith in the saving power of human relationships or love and a passion for the art that is akin to religious experience. For him classical and traditional values are still living.  Steering off his boat from the muddy waters into which Modernity plunges us, his poetry embodies an argument for Eastern/Islamic traditionalist aesthetic that is worth our attention. A poet speaking of God and religion in a way that befits an artist who cares for perfection of form rather than as a moralist is Anzar. Anzar’s profession seems to have only positively impacted on his poetry making him a poet who takes the side of life, its transcendence and grandeur against all philosophies of escapist asceticism. An inheritor of Sufi heritage, Anzar writes consciously as a Muslim embodying the values of Islamic tradition and strongly takes on secularist progressives and modernists and others who trifle with the Sacred. Before a few words on his Kashmiri collection “Kya Leukhnem Qalmen” that has already impressed some of our well known critics and scholars and going to make itself notice for its distinctive voice, a few verses from his Urdu poetry that express his fusion of poetry and philosophy.

 Hasan Anzar  dua karna mahazi zindagi sae surkhro hokar

Tera anzar, tera shayir, tera aashufta sar aayae, 

Ug rahi hae fasl ik bay chahrgi ki her tarf

bayisa mushkil bani hae ab ana merae liyae, 

He can well claim to be “bai Riya Shayir.” “Saadgi menz raaz kya khosh aasnuk, bes mae ousum anzares yutiy prichun.” And  he has no complaints against either God or man for incomprehensible in the odyssey of life. Some of his poems are worth including in school text books like” ae mere Kashmir ae pyare watan” “ Nound boan gulaba soiy etc.” One finds echoes of Sufi poets in him (the haunting title of the book Kya leukhnem Qalmen we owe both to Rahman Dar and his dear friend and critic Shahzada Rafiq who suggested it)  and he has wonderfully appropriated Souchi Kral’s famous Daepomes yaer laagov in Pricheumes ti wonnem. 

For Anzar, one can make one’s profession a life long wazeefa by taking it as if one has chosen it, as svadharma.  Life is an enigma for him and he is in search of someone, perhaps a master, to  unravel it to him (“Koi to ukda kusha ho,” ” bi oasus haeraan murshides rous/karem kour tem ti chum aaraam basaan”). He is a quest, an anjan banjara. True to poetic spirit he eschews moralistic judgments, abstractions and speculations and finds himself seeking and enquiring though not questioning or doubting. (haqqeqat maer menz dilkesh kitabah/woen gov men menz chu kenh ibhaam basaan). the Beloved gazing in jasmines He pleads for “spiritual literacy,” and “natural supernaturalism” by foregrounding  “sweet pain of love” that cleanses the perception and thanks to theophanic vision that his hamd and na’t  celebrates, he is able to love his children (one of the very fathers who says balaayi lagaey at least ten times daily to his children and counts it as worship) his brothers (if for only for one in a thousand persons we can see brothers and their families ready to die, Anzar is one), neighbours and friends if not all of his relatives. At heart a Heideggarian who hated city and technology , advised visiting graves as a mantra, championed poetry as a means of salvation, Anzar, sobered by a deep sense of the tragic asks for decoding symbols of decay and death (harud)  and often invokes Socrates (who defined philosophy as preparation for death) to express his indignity at the rot around him. The final word of this posh-i- mout is for dissolving into the mystery of Life (rather than solving it in logical terms) by cultivating love and we know, as Rumi said, Love, flowing from self transcendence, is Galen and Plato that cures all sickness and answers all complaints.

Pan panun muthmut sacraates/keti wuch hen yuth kismet woalah

Maasoom nazro saeth chuk pawaan mae chaetes az/jannat hawwa ti pati arfaath damah beh

Tail Piece

There have been very few police officers who have written such a beautiful poetry. I think a few more poets like Anzar if keep inducting in police department, would transform it and it would be a delight to encounter Thana or police officer. During training all policemen or officers should be required to take a small course in art or poetry to help them better understand life and deal with people they will encounter later. The secret of morals is love and life of imagination as Shelley pointed out. Daily reading a few verses from great poets as one recites the scripture would help us perfect both our faith and our ability to appreciate beauty and joy  that life, despite its apparent discord, is.