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Khwaja Shahid Hosain

On 16 November 1994, Parveen Shakir inscribed and sent Hosain her first collection of poems. It brought together the work from her four books, ‘Khushboo’, ‘Sud Barg’, ‘Khud Kalami’ and ‘Inkaar’. Just over a month later, on 26 December, she passed away. Hosain wrote this poem a few days later, on 30 December. This poem was published in our inaugural volume (2017).

You cannot learn these poets by their death;

Possessing them in life is harder still. Makers and knowers, they use every breath

To hide the hurt that drives them. Every skill

Is bent to guard the mystery of words Which is their sole inheritance. Still we burn With urgency to grasp their mind and meaning: our only swords

To wield against the demons that beset us. Turn Singer, our sorrow to acceptance, into pride That we once walked beside you. When you died The world dimmed briefly—then the steady blaze Of your true music redeemed our days.


Khwaja Shahid Hosain edited and contributed to First Voices, the first of what became a series of anthologies of Pakistani poetry in English, published by the Oxford University Press in 1965. His verse-play, The Square Peg, has been published by the American literary journal, The New Mexico Quarterly (1961-62). His poetry has also appeared in Young Commonwealth Poets (1965) and Commonwealth Poems of Today (1967). He has been Director General of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Managing Director of the National Film Development Corporation (NAFDEC), Federal Secretary for Culture and Tourism, and Pakistan’s Ambassador to UNESCO. He has also spent several years as a London-based antiquarian bookseller.


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