Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 6 Issue 33 | August 24 , 2007 |

   Straight Talk
   Cover Story
   Food for Thoughts
   View from the    Bottom
   In Retrospect
   Book Review
   Dhaka Diary

   SWM Home

Book Review

S.N. Hashem's Poems

A Saga of Inner Conflicts

Razia Khan

Syed S.N. Hashem's collection of English poems in 'Hopefully the Pomegranate' are a valuable addition to Indo Anglian literature, which is avidly read all around the world these days. His emotional intensity on the personal level is matched by his sensitive response to socio-economic and political tremors. Deeply steeped in European mythology he draws his allusions profusely from biblical lore also. The grooming of his excellent command over the English language was obviously a long-drawn out process, rounded off by his B. A. Honours from Presidency College in Calcutta. In an interview with The Daily Star's literary supplement I had expressed the wish that Hashem's poetry should be published. My wish was fulfilled soon enough.

S.N.H invents his own myths - like Moana of the Seven Moons who came but stayed not. He admits the influence of Pablo Neruda on his poetry in the Author's Note. Like Neruda himself, he was ambassador (for Bangladesh) to several countries.

Hopefully the Pomegranate By Syed Najmuddin Hashim Edited by Niaz Zaman Published by writers.ink Pages:114

A close friend of poets Sanaul Huq, Munir Chowdhury and Shahidullah Kaiser, his Bangla is powerful and vivacious, though perhaps a little abstruse. This results from the complexity of his cogitations. The same applies to his English poetry. Erudite, amiable, warm and generous, he represents the titans who figure in our cultural life. The sorrowful strain in his poetry is an expression of his disenchantment with the turn of events which destroyed our own land. The personal grief is over broken relationships, whose serpentine caverns he fears to visit which nevertheless plague him constantly. The late Ahmedul Kabir, Gholam Kuddus and Khan Ata were his close associates; so was Syed Waliullah. From S.N. Hashem I heard about the poet Ibne Insha, an Urdu poet who wrote under this pseudonym and who crept into my first novel written when I was eighteen. A language warrior he was in jail with Bongobandhu. His patriotism comes out vividly in his poetry.

Largely free from misprints, the poems reflect wide variety of travel, friendships whose pictorial and emotional impact make reading them rewarding. Juxtaposed with the somewhat abstruse pieces are simple statements of hope and expectations. The poems are made picturesque by vivid metaphors. Biblical love attracts him powerfully. 'Tabernacle', 'Jehova', 'Noah's Ark' figure significantly in these pieces.

That he did not continue to write beyond 1988 is a wonder. Retirement, a peaceful home one would think, would be just the advantages to inspire more poetry. But then mortal anguish being the birth pangs of many of these poems, contentment seems to have taken away the creative zeal. But he was busy at this time writing his Bengali Belles letters.

Listening to his talk about literary Titans was fascinating. Once he told me about the poet Bishnu De who taught in the English Department of Presidency College. The pupil found the teacher sweeping the premises. His beautiful wide eyes were particularly appealing. His gift on my 16th birthday was an entire volume of Galsworth's Forsythe Saga which I read avidly.

I had seen some of these poems in Karachi and still have a copy of my handwritten exercise book. 'A Few Years' being my favourite poem was written when he was in Australia. It seems to have been inspired by someone very special. The companion poem is also by the same person. The suppressed fury of the second piece is staggering.

The ups and downs of a waning relationship come out powerfully in 'Have you Ever'. A man, whose mother tongue was as good as his English, might have written poems in Bangla. But he poured into his Bangla prose the richness of his creative gusto which is sustained throughout.

Never do we find a flagging moment; the intensity in his work is almost dramatic. It pushes you on, till you read every word greedily. Political turmoil and the storm within a wounded psyche go hand in hand in shaping the poems. If at times immersed in his personal pain, socio-economic tremors make and shake him into angry protests. He traces the nature of the loss of values ruthlessly, clothing them in striking metaphors. S.N. Hashim's poetry is as much a saga of his inner conflicts as those which shook our country.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007