I read straight through the book, To Discover The Unknown. It is so interesting how different this book is compared to Henna's former book, The Luminous Path. She is so much more open and frank about her life. I particularly liked "Prayer Comfort" which is much more personal than anything I've read of Henna's. The poems on relatives are wonderfully touching. I like very much the poems on Pakistan and the one on Bhutto.
She has grown and changed beyond measure in these poems. I was amused to see that we have sparrows in Common. There are lively, vivid phrases throughout the book , "The cloud ate my dreams like a hungry crow, "or" I wake up in the arms of the day, "or" the hook of breath, "or" children throw stones to find the bottom of poverty, "the vortex of controversy, " day and night chase the tail of time, " and it goes on and on.
She is much more politically daring than she once was.
In the writer’s career there are frequent lapses into a bold explicatory style that is very much rooted in the tradition of aphoristic wisdom and pithy foreclosures which appear to be both an artistic compulsion on the part of the writer, and a psychological need on the part of readers.
The collection Wet sun is enlivened by poems addressed to specific individuals , Kishwar Naheed, Bano Qudsia, where the directness of language, and an eye for dry, realistic detail give the writing a sharpness and flavor.
She asserts that women can no longer “be brow-beaten into subjugation or bondage” that they “have a voice and a claim, and must have the confidence to know their worth.” As a poet she gives voice to issues concerning women, including motherhood.
There is also more formal experimentation in the Wet Sun poems, with the poet later settling down to a confident, sedate, style. On the whole however, one feels that the poet is moving towards greater clarity and insight and that out of the disappointment and pain will come a resilience and dignity which characterizes the work of great women poets.
Prof. Alamgir Hashmi
DREAM AND REALITY
Many of her poems reflect the inner and outer consciousness and are built of vivid, surreal images. The opening poem “Illusion” begins:
I reclined on the armchair of dreams
and the leaves beneath my feet
rustled and turned yellow to green
In the night, the ambulance breaks
the silence that we crave for
and in the afternoon sun.
all things seem Holy.
In this collection, the poet often contemplates life and death. A spiritual yearning runs through her work too. Several poems are clearly influenced by the oriental poetic tradition, in which the beloved is both lover and spiritual guide. Some such as "Unified Soul II' come together effortlessly as a cohesive whole, but others including "The Awaited One" and the "God" series require more subtlety and control.
Syeda Henna Babar Ali has been writing for over a decade and the poems are more forceful in their social commentary.
Henna either writes a highly subjective surreal style or one of pithy comment. A good example of the first is seen in,
in your frame I live.
somehow, tormented words
i discover my body.
the moon in grass.
In fact the devotional poems, which form a major part of this collection and which, according to the poet, point to "her journey towards God," appear more meaningful when read in continuation of her love poems. When taken together these poems present an example of how a love experience transforms at times into a religious experience and how, in consequence, genuinely written love poems find their sublimation in devotional poetry. To be more precise, these delicately written poems tell the sad story of a forlorn soul, who being betrayed in her experience of love tries to find solace in the beneficent folds of that Supreme Being, who is always kind enough.
So it is not devotional poetry written in a traditional way. Being with God is the most wonderful feeling. Here is an attempt to express in words that most wonder feeling, which is nearer to a mystical experience. The expression is easy and simple. There seems to be no attempt to say things in a poetic way. This feeling has its own poetry. It doesn't stand in need of a cultivated poetic style.
DR AMJAD PARVEZ
for 'The Luminous Path'
Henna Babar Ali's poem 'Serenity' is a typical example of her inkling towards Sufism. She says God has made His special space in her, nurtures and surrounds her. In the process what people say matters little. In this regard Henna's poems are a way forward for the English speaking nations. And for those who are interested, it is easy to comprehend the substance in this language. Henna's poems have a Sufi touch in them, that are a source of soul searching for such people. In her poem 'Friendship and Unity' (page 127), she informs us that she did not realize when her love for God started. She expresses this bond as follows:
for 'A Rose'
I was very affected by what Henna has to say in this book, particularly in those poems about Pakistan. They are a cry from her heart and she expresses her feelings with such gentleness that contrasts with the violence she is writing about, "delicate ideas like/ butterfly wings sitting in/ the cusp of the day...." I think we all need" A prayer to save us from ourselves...." Most certainly it is true that "It takes more courage to silence/ the barrel of a gun than to fire it." She voices the voice that is in so many of us.
I love it when you let your fancy fly in words, as in "Phantom" when "in the rose garden where clouds/hang from the roof and the sun/ runs away into another world." Your spiritual poems are as lovely as ever. I particularly liked "Night Star," "Your World" and "Snowball."