Harris Khalique

Political Poetry in Contemporary Pakistan: An Evening with Pakistani Poet and Nonfiction Writer Harris Khalique

A summary of the lecture
by Sridevi Prasad, ISAS Program & Publications Assistant

“All major poetic works are political in nature”. With this bold statement, Pakistani poet and non-fiction writer, Harris Khalique, began his lecture on “Political Poetry in Contemporary Pakistan” on October 15 at the Townsend Center. Khalique provided various examples from the history of South Asian poetry to prove his point. The famous Heer Ranjha, Khalique argued, was more than just a love story. It was a poem that portrayed political issues such as caste politics and was feminist in nature. The Uttarakhand Ramayana written in Urdu was a political statement as well just through the use of Urdu. Khalique argued that this political nature of contemporary poetry did not stem from the Arabic tradition but came from the Urdu tradition. Citing works by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Meeraji, and the Progressive Writer’s Movement, Khalique showed the diversity of works that can be considered political Urdu poetry. Contemporary feminist poetry, he argued, could also be labeled as political since it has engaged with issues such as the 2014 Peshawar school bombing or the 2013 Peshawar church attack. During the lecture, Khalique read from his own collection of poetry in both Urdu and English that spoke about topics such as Partition, bombings and war. A self-characterized Urdu poet who writes in other languages, Khalique provided Berkeley with a short snippet of the political poetry scene in Pakistan.