Rococo and Other Worlds: Selected Poems

Rococo and Other Worlds: Selected Poems

NOOK BookTrans. from the Urdu (eBook - Trans. from the Urdu)

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<P>Afzal Ahmed Syed holds a unique place among contemporary poets of the Urdu language, as an acknowledged master of both the classical and modern Urdu poetic forms. The poems in Rococo and Other Worlds explore the mythology and historical realities of South Asia and the Middle East; their bold imagery creates narratives of voluptuous perfection, which remain inseparable from the political realities that Syed witnessed as a young observer of the violent separation of East Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 and of the Lebanese civil war in 1976. Musharraf Ali Farooqi's sensitive translations bring this extraordinary work to English readers for the first time.</P>

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819569875
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 01/01/2012
Series: The Driftless Series & Wesleyan Poetry Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 108
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

<P>AFZAL AHMED SYED is the author of numerous volumes of poetry and translations of Western literature into Urdu, including works by Gabriel García Márquez and Jean Genet. He is credited with infusing Urdu nazm poetry with a new idiom and imagery. MUSHARRAF ALI FAROOQI is an author, novelist, and translator. His books include translations of the Urdu classics The Adventures of Amir Hamza (2007) and Hoshruba (2009), and a novel, The Story of a Widow (2008).</P>

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from ROCOCO and Other Worlds

Rococo and Other Worlds

Elias Canetti maintains Goya was a partisan The one who made the Maja Nude the Maja Clothed, and the Majas on a Balcony

His Rococo world disappeared in Third of May in a dark Madrid alley He became oblivious that parasol carriers had adorned his canvas and his bed

The source of light in his canvas is a floor lantern troops whose faces remain hidden discharge fire on unresisting civilians everyone resolves death in his own manner the white shirt has his chest thrust out in defiance

Successive generations of painters shall revisit the theme

The subject of his last oil the Milkmaid of Bordeaux would have been claimed by some revolution

In the passing it may be mentioned Goya sided against Napoleon with the people of Spain

Viewers' Choice

Wandy D wants to preserve our war against insects for her viewers
(she will be compensated for her pains)

It is her good fortune that at present we are targeted by locust swarms

She has canceled her plans to visit Ipanema or Copa Cabana this summer and the cut of the ultimate-bikini is farthest from her thoughts

Armed with a printout of possible hazards, diet and dress-code she wants to take on our psychedelic sun

The use of baking soda as a teeth-whitener is foreign to Doctor D She is similarly disinterested in a French manicure
(it is an expensive proposition!)

Locust swarms is what catches her fancy documented by God, Pausanias and Pliny From the vantage point of Etruscan emperors she desires to see us fall in the arena

We desire that Wandy should assume Farfara as her a.k.a.
have a part of her body temporarily or permanently tattooed and perform the bedroom act in some movie that we could rent from the nearest video-library

A Difficult Question

Where was Cleopatra at the time of Caesar's murder?

A free trip to Rome for one who solves the riddle

A Corroded Pin

Dr Pedro Ara would have died of starvation in our country waiting for a commission to embalm a corpse

To preserve their better halves in flesh after their tortuous deaths occurred to none of our presidents

But not all presidents are alike Nor all first ladies are prima-ballerinas whom it does not behoove to become earth again if she breathes her last as Dr Pedro Ara's compatriot and the mistress of a head-of-state In the presidential bedchamber she lay in peace for three years in her open casket

After his deposal the former ruler shared with her his exile and to reach a Madrid cellar she forded the whole Atlantic

Three decades later to reclaim power the former president again crossed the Atlantic without the prima-ballerina's casket

For the simple reason that his beloved —
the renowned actress —
had a revulsion for unsightly objects such as a corroded pin in the hair of an embalmed corpse

The Spirit of the Lord

The Spirit of the Lord is moving over waters over colorful waters over twelve-year-vintage waters from Scotland The Spirit of the Lord is speeding dancing doing somersaults flinging its arms wide blowing kisses to pull together someone who must stand for his master in the morning to inaugurate a by-pass bridge

The Inaugural Plaque Is Stolen

The plaque worth one thousand us dollars installed at a project's inauguration has been stolen It is no trifling matter One must not sit still after lodging an FIR against unknown thieves Islamabad must dispatch five-thousand-strong Police and Rangers detachments to surround the area conduct house-to-house searches carry out arrests of youth shower children with slaps strike white heads against walls snatch anything that takes their fancy

In the event the plaque's not recovered the guard that did not search the black Mercedes of the guest-of-honor on his way out should be dismissed

Spring Shall Return to the City

By virtue of the prime minister's photogenic smile Adonis-like the murdered youth shall return from Hades and other victims too

The president shall clear his throat and the terrorists will surrender arms and get jobs at the Mehran Bank

In the afternoon the moment the Chief Minister's yawn is ended the citizenry shall set out for movie houses and theaters Topless nymphomaniac girls will come out to the French Beach

The moment our eyes pop and the tongues loll out from bodies strung up on boughs of trees Spring shall return to the city

It Could Never Be

Her love for haute-couture Her embroidered bolero Her Egyptian amulet for eternal life Her partiality towards Islam and chocolate-chip ice cream Her bridal gown, and for swearing-in ceremonies her green and her blue dresses People ordered stripped at her behest it could never be

The Campaign to Introduce an Ice-Cream

After the Rangers trucks and the armored personnel carriers before the tanks made an appearance they rolled out of toy shops into our streets with their white boxes-on-wheels fitted out with beach-umbrellas

They spoke the language of strawberry and vanilla To attract people they had a charming tune

Their campaign to introduce an ice-cream was the last pleasant surprise for our city

A Girl

Her moans in the throes of ecstasy sound more melodious than the whole world's national anthems

During the sexual act she could be determined more pretty than any beauty queen

A visit to any strife torn part of the city could be risked to obtain her blue video

Only to meet her is impossible Like Pakistan Hala Faruqi too is in police custody

On a Political Party Being Allotted the Horse as Its Election Symbol

Do not appear on a wretched piece of paper; do not conceal Odysseus and his wily companions in your belly; walk out of the posters smeared on Aabpara walls and trot neighing past Constitution Avenue; get under the Amazons' thighs; unseat Nelson at the Trafalgar; head straight for Giambologna's studio and walk in without knocking; take al-Mutanabbi to the Sultan's tent — for the first time in history a poet will read out his qasida astride a horse; come out of the bank lockers; break the vaults, and Samson-like bring down the pillars of the head office; do not submit your mane to the lawn mower; Eve is presenting Adam an apple bought from the supermarket, pluck it from her hands and present it to your favorite filly; go aboard and discover the America that Isabella could not buy for all her crown jewels; enslave Alexander and Julius Caesar; pull Adonis's bier to its last resting place; locate sunken ships; search for the Earth's treasures; invent a new variety of grass; wear the moon as a stud in your shoe; do not look back at the Minotaur; Jesus doesn't have a ride, take him to Mary Magdalene's place this evening under falling showers; Nefertiti has never set eyes on a horse, imagining you the God she will prostrate herself before you; do not let your flanks be branded; do not let your image be stamped.


On the eve of Saturnalia his melancholy strains had stirred the drunken mob

But words failed him then his spasms on the white alabaster floor soon ended

He shall never again roll dice against his elder brother

"He shall come to soon enough!"
Nero declared with imperial fluency The mother of the murderer and his victim had lost all He had been poisoned before everyone's eyes to the right of the holy relics

He died without giving his sister a farewell kiss and lay thus in the banquet hall After a brief silence everyone dug into their food again

Astronomy and the Poet

As an homage to love, the volcano of a Martian moon was named after the beloved of the man who had discovered that moon and another, whose naming after a mythical god was influenced by the worship instinct — a lesser passion than love. But we can overlook that as the god in question was killed. What affords us satisfaction is that a satellite of Mars was baptized after the one who made the first unsuccessful flight, and that to invest the cosmos with some semblance of purpose, at least the regions of Mercury were named after a poet, a novelist, a painter, and a composer. Aphrodite, the deity of love, reigns over just one region of Venus, whereas Satellite No. 433 was determined as the God of Fornication. The satellite named after the God Hermes was unfortunately lost after it drew one thousand meters too close to Earth. Those who venerate wealth would be delighted to learn that the goddess of the Roman mint is in revolution as a Martian satellite. All the illustrious cosmic gods whose worshipers became extinct or were put to the sword, are in orbit somewhere or the other, with their august names. Some day someone will also name a planetoid — discovered somewhere in the far reaches of the space — after our God.

A Beginning with Great Names

We do not at all know where Alice Rendal may be found at this hour This past day she was seen at the hotel pool's western side and in the telescope of Godhra Camp's Ibrahim Borka on the Industrial Corporation's fifth floor

Were he a silkworm he would have woven a cocoon around her and the two would have been dropped in boiling water together

Our sympathies and our nights go out to the girls who saw off their childhood speedily and with insolence Our love goes out to the girl whose eyes tell New York time whose nail polish glows in the dark She is actively trying to save the race of dolphins

The best of all nights was spent in her permed hair We were at variance over Germany's reunification

Yet we know the heart is a trapeze artist that keeps up its act without an audience

Wellai Wang-Ik is lying stripped and joyful in her room and could entertain guests in that state but our knowledge is short

Beginning today we must call the two girls Helen and Beatrice —
who pass by Mansfield Street at half past five in the evening —
that we may make a beginning with two great names

A Dog's Death

Air Vice-Marshal Manocher Nadirshaw taking his dinner during a civilian flight chokes on a bone and dies

Throw another dog before just such a bone

Tell Me a Story

Tell me a story other than that you're carrying my seed other than that you're more beautiful than the girl who has left me other than that you always wear a white brassiere under a white blouse

Tell me a story other than who the mirror pronounced the loveliest other than that all reflection in the mirror is beautiful other than how the princesses' mirrors slipped from the slave-girls' hands other than how the princesses' fetuses aborted other than how the cities fell

  and the ramparts
  and the standards
  and men in combat

Tell me a story other than that you did not sleep in the Captain's cabin sailing over the dateline other than that you never set eyes on the sea other than that of the drowned some names never make the list

Tell me a story other than how in a brothel separated twin sisters met other than what flower grew from whose tears other than that from a burning oven nobody steals bread

Tell me a story other than how from the museum the witness table of the peace pact disappeared other than that a continent is called by the wrong name Tell me a story other than that you do not like to kiss lips other than that I was not the first man in your life other than that it was not raining that day

Soldiers Seize Virgil's Lands

Soldiers seize Virgil's lands whose restoration lies a journey to Rome and two poems farther on

The length of his stay there and how long the civil war detained him from writing poetry remains unrecorded

From his Spanish campaign Emperor Augustus sends for the manuscript of the Aeneid which was read to him four years later on his deathbed

Virgil repeatedly sent for the manuscript of the Aeneid —
to destroy it —
it was not provided him

The Ultimate Profession

It is common knowledge that the ultimate profession is to earn one's bread through plying the pen. Recently cradle-makers and fossilologists have also shown an inclination towards this calling, and in this line of work every deposed general has attained an enviable rank. Ousted bureaucrats and murderers condemned for life are the authors of best-selling books. We make the sad observation that in the opinion of her contemporaries, Aphra Behn — the first woman who sought recourse to penmanship to earn bread — earned her living, principally, from selling her flesh.


from DEATH SENTENCE in Two Languages

If My Voice Is Not Reaching You

If my voice is not reaching you add to it the echo —
echo of ancient epics

And to that —
a princess

And to the princess — your beauty

And to your beauty —
a lover's heart

And in the lover's heart a dagger

The Last Date of Existence

Our breathing follows no distinct tune And our blood could easily be washed with liquid soap Without prior sanction we could change the color of our raincoat or footwear We are not admonished presenting a girl with a taper-holder —
or a schooner —
in our dream On the empty steps of the winding staircase we are allowed the privilege to await a kiss

The last date of our existence is expired

You Live in Lovely Orbs

You live in lovely orbs A sphericality conscientiously holds your hair

An ornate necklace truckles your neck

The unfaltering watch is attached to your wrist

A dainty belt embraces your waist

Your feet are girdled in lace-up shoes to tread our earth I shall not mention the hidden orbs that might have you in their hold Allow them the advantage that is theirs

In my mind in play I never disarrayed you

You live in lovely orbs And I in tortuous lines How may I possibly serve you except fetch you in my mouth the ball you kicked


You arrive daily decked out in a new outfit to teach your alluring eyes a new language

Between your lowered neck and your shoulder I find a new clasp for my heart

Looking out the window your eyes rest on my face

Pronouncing the unfamiliar phrase my tongue is caught between your teeth

Through the window perhaps we could walk far towards the sea ignoring the throng of scrap mongers scrapping a ship

Perhaps we could cross over the bridge that has been condemned Sit in benches where the paint has not dried


Zarmeena whom it was given me to discover with the compass and the astrolabe, addressed me in three languages, and also in an aquatic language yet to be contrived. At the Promulgation of the Canon of Nature's Mimicry prohibiting food and drink, the schedules of manufactories and lyceums had been revised, and Zarmeena, who would not have cared much for the discrepancies on the terrestrial domain, loyal to the old calendar, reached the lyceum at a time when the books and the walls had all been locked. I had not left the lyceum that day. I was on the verge of being locked inside when I saw her and she returned me my collection of poems. Oblivious of myself, when handing her the book, I could not, in either language, present it to her. Even so, she relied on my pledge of the Aquatic God and kept it in her custody: she unfolded several poems and chanced to learn from history that poets were not loved; and that it was still difficult for one whose heart and star were made with water. But her eyes, which require no preface, could not desist from the question that if her boat would best others on the First Morn, would I dedicate to her my new collection of verse, keeping in view that she had disclosed to me the place from which the sea looked its most beautiful and where after bribing the guards I had spent a whole day. Zarmeena was not there that day. She did not wish my love of the sea apportioned. She was not there another day when I went to look her up in the holds of boats, and where the seamen eat. Even so, when she was turned out innocent from the bibliothèque, to console her I was there; within the walls of the painting exhibit I was locked with her and freed. The last time I walked away from her, she came with her carriage and found it most improper not to see me home. But she knew nothing of the garden of caged beasts and the heart of the city, adjacent. So she could have dropped me at will, anywhere. Before we could cross the bridge that separates mirth from sorrow in my city, she asked me a few questions, which everyone sooner or later asks, who would enter or break a relationship. Deciding not to take her too deep into the recesses of sorrow, without caring to ask when or where I next might see her, I asked to be dropped at the foot of the bridge. I never saw her again. Incessantly I searched for her at the steps of the Admiralty, near shops that sell sails, and in auberges near the sea. The blue ink that smeared her wrist one day during the lesson would keep reminding me I could have gathered her in a poem.

Zarmeena, if she is too near the sea, must needs feel obligated to me — for I could well have distanced her from the sea with the magnet's help.

The Genres of Poetry

Without knowing that nomadism is a creed of life and among poetry's more difficult genres, he found his way to a tattered amphitheatre and began to dream of tightrope walkers; but his ropes were not yet woven when a non-nomad girl appeared before him who took him many light-years away from nomadism. This encounter exposed him to the shadow of light and blood and in a bird shop he priced the dream of a fledgling of exquisite plumage in maiden flight, until the spool of his voice flew away from his hands. The custodian of the bird shop pasted him to the wall of an edifice and from there, in exchange for cartage and a time-and-a-half allowance, he was taken to a cell where someone addressed him. The liveliest drop of blood in his body which sometimes disrobes in his eyes, is the voice of the girl he heard, and found out that the paper blossoms, the glass vase, the brick wall, the wooden door, and even he himself, could speak, in the accent and language of his choice. He did not see the girl but like the lighthouse which the waves perhaps never reach, he saw how the sea lay, and the parts where it was turbulent. The live drop of blood which once answered to his fingers disappeared in his body of a sudden. From that moment he turned bitter, and now searched for an adversary. Ages later it dawned on him that both friend and foe are terms for a lost blessing. But for now he had no patience and set forth the charges against his father in his verses. This self-instilled enmity which solidified one day, allowed him to search in his father's eyes for the face of the girl he could pronounce mother, or not pronounce it. Around that time he was granted bail from the prison that was his home. Those who bailed him out introduced him to the pack of fifty-two fairies. The training in self-denial and his suicidal tendency brought out in him a gambler's keenness. He gambled excessively but could not forfeit himself. Then he played a strange trick, becoming partners with a preceptress in life. The drop of blood that disrobed in his eyes was absorbed in the preceptress's white chalk. After some time, one day when she drew a fledgling in maiden flight, the picture flew away from the blackboard. When he learnt of the incident, he began to dream of nomad girls who can walk on air without tightropes — without knowing that this variety of nomadism is poetry's most complex genre.


Excerpted from "Rococo and Other Worlds"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Musharraf Ali Farooqi.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

<P>from ROCOCO AND OTHER WORLDS—2000<BR>Rococo and Other Worlds<BR>Viewers' Choice<BR>A Difficult Question<BR>A Corroded Pin<BR>The Spirit of the Lord<BR>The Inaugural Plaque is Stolen<BR>Spring Shall Return to the City<BR>It Could Never Be<BR>The Campaign to Introduce an Ice-Cream<BR>A Girl<BR>On A Political Party Being Allotted the Horse as its Election Symbol<BR>Britannicus<BR>Astronomy and the Poet<BR>A Beginning with Great Names<BR>A Dog's Death<BR>Tell Me a Story<BR>Soldiers Seize Virgil's Lands<BR>The Ultimate Profession<BR>from DEATH SENTENCE IN TWO LANGUAGES—1990<BR>If My Voice Is Not Reaching You<BR>The Last Date of Existence<BR>You Live In Lovely Orbs<BR>Poem<BR>Zarmeena<BR>The Genres of Poetry<BR>To Live is a Mechanistic Torture<BR>I Was Taken with an Indigo Flower<BR>Whom One Loves<BR>The Last Contention<BR>Has Love Been Mislaid<BR>Had We Not Sung the Song<BR>Poem<BR>Love<BR>A Parable<BR>Near Lavania<BR>Those Who Own the Filly<BR>A Couplet by Poet-Laureate Nubar Isbarian<BR>Step into My Parlor<BR>Poem<BR>I Was Not Born To This Destiny&#8226; from AN ARROGANT PAST—1984<BR>I Invented Poetry<BR>The Clay-mine<BR>I Was Not Given Life in Such Plenitude<BR>If Someone Would Remember Me<BR>What the Sea Said to You<BR>If They Could Learn<BR>To Live Another Day<BR>If I Do Not Return<BR>The Slaughter of Snow-Birds<BR>Inclination<BR>The Heart of a Poet<BR>The Dirge of a Rabid Dog</P>

What People are Saying About This

David Ray

“Rococo usually refers to baroque style, playful and elaborate rhythms and ornament, but other worlds also leap and scream from these poems—images of violent history as Tacitus, Goya, or Kafka saw it. A sense of danger pervades a desperate and eroticized human search for safety. It’s a dark vision, near surrealist, painfully unique.”

Muhammad Umar Memon

"A powerful narrative of human solitude and alienation, the gentle and at times explosive rhythms of Rococo and Other Worlds linger in the mind long after the poems are read and contemplated. A modern sensibility profoundly informed by the finest liberal traditions of classical Urdu poetry at its best."
Muhammad Umar Memon, professor Urdu and Persian literature and Islamic studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison

From the Publisher

"A powerful narrative of human solitude and alienation, the gentle and at times explosive rhythms of Rococo and Other Worlds linger in the mind long after the poems are read and contemplated. A modern sensibility profoundly informed by the finest liberal traditions of classical Urdu poetry at its best."—Muhammad Umar Memon, professor Urdu and Persian literature and Islamic studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison

"Rococo usually refers to baroque style, playful and elaborate rhythms and ornament, but other worlds also leap and scream from these poems—images of violent history as Tacitus, Goya, or Kafka saw it. A sense of danger pervades a desperate and eroticized human search for safety. It's a dark vision, near surrealist, painfully unique."—David Ray, author of Sam's Book and After Tagore

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