A review on Sarosh Latif‘s book Let’s Barter Silence and Sounds
Rashid Javed Ahmed
On the literary stage of Pakistan today, when most of the writers particularly female poets bring forward raw sentimentality and mythical romanticism as their best characters, it is a gust of fresh breeze to find a new voice. This is nawa-i-Sarosh…a voice that is unique but soft, piercing yet compassionate. From ideas to the way the poems are structured and crafted, we find a lot of variety in Sarosh Latif’s Let’s Barter Silence and Sounds.
Latif’s book has high language skills, explored and subverted by her to create her own unique voice. The words of the poems inherently carry judgment and values within their nucleus. Poetry is said to be a subjective art form that affords its authors freedom to express themselves in ways both traditional and innovative. Poems do not have to rhyme, nor do they have to follow any particular structure or include any particular style. But some of the poems in this book do rhyme and have a different style of the poet. The very first poem, “The Knots of the Season” contains a profound imagination, a concrete one, like a sight, smell or taste. It takes you along with the poet and you see, what she sees and you hear what she hears, instead of creating a picture that you see in your minds. This is the example of visual imagery she creates with concrete words.
Almost all the poems have punctuated format of arrangement and you read the poems as the author intends you to read. Internal Displacement,
The Labour Pain,
A Futile Effort,
She is not me, are the poems with frequent line breaks and short stanzas which force you to read in a different rhythm than if it were arranged in longer stanzas. The impact of format in these poems suggests you to read these aloud instead of in your head.
Most of the poems are without line breaks and stanzas but these have different sounds and tones which make them soft as well as sharp.
Latif has seen life in its naked realism, so the revolt is exemplified in her poetry through her imagery and vocabulary. Realism is the subject matter of these poems so we do not see the ornate or artificial poetic style of the romantics. The poet’s consciousness of the grim realities of life has shattered all illusions and romantic dreams. The tragedies of everyday life have induced a mood of disillusionment in some poems. Dust- Grimmed Words, Echoes, Esto Momento, The Star –Studded Warriors, and The Defeat are the examples.
Another aspect of Latif’s poetry is that the approach, scope and theme of poetry is not restricted to Pakistan and its culture, rather her poetry spans from Pakistani culture to other cultures of the world known to her. This makes her poetry even more versatile where she talks of past and present, nature and man and paints everyday life. These poems are condensed and are in compressed form to convey emotions or ideas to the reader. The economy of language, careful selection of words and clarity of the poems is praiseworthy. She, as her poetry undoubtedly suggests, is a rebel who does have the spirit to express what she feels for humanity in a style that is far from being conventional. It’s the voice of a non-conformist and the feelings of a humanist.
Her poem The Quest is on the ones who succumb to the brutal and traumatizing, man-made institutions of oppression, which, actually, are a byproduct of fear; which stay intact and thrive on the misery of the weaker and the marginalized, in the monstrosity of patriarchy, misogyny and the so-called tribal honour. And, then, there are the ones, like Sarosh, who become the voice of the voiceless, and identify themselves with, and speak up for the hapless who pay the price for being born amongst the mental pygmies with stunted intellectual growth.
“She found herself
in the eyes of a girl
who, last night, was stoned to death.”
And these lines from The Land of Liberty are another example of my above mentioned claims on her poetry:
“Movement restricted, communication prohibited;
You are cooped up in a ranch.
Contrived fables to make your heart content,
Distorted allegories to turn your mind numb
They feed you whatever they want.”
Sarosh Latif belongs to Lyallpur and is teaching in a university. This is her debut book of verse, beautifully designed by Saeed Ibrahim and published by Sanjh publications, Lahore.
The book contains Urdu translation of each poem simultaneously by Mr. Nodan Nasir, a poet from Quetta.