Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) was born in India and considered the leading poet on the South Asian subcontinent. He was a two-time Nobel nominee. His readings in Hindi/Urdu speaking regions drew thousands of listeners. Associated with the Communist party in his youth, Fiaz became an outspoken poet in opposition to the Pakistani government.[snippets from the back of my book].
"The Rebels Silhouette" by Fiaz has been one of my favorite collections of poetry. I first discovered it on SASIALIT (South ASIAn LITerature), a listserve I joined in '97 and lurked around for many years, and it completely changed my view of literature and the world. Fond memories of the brilliant analysis, sharp wit, and comprehensive discussions on literature, life and art in South Asia and the diaspora (with lots of Western cross-referencing). Sadly, I just clicked over there to see if the discussions are still lively and it seems the last book listed was in 2002. Perhaps the conversation continues in a Yahoo Group or Blog somewhere out there. . .
Now this is one of the best poems of all time (in my humble moderately well read opinion). The last stanza being the one that still rocks my world. Relevant today are oppressors in our world, relevant also is the indomitable spirit of the artist, the oppressed, who manage to still find beauty a.k.a hope in the world.
A Prison Evening
Each star a rung,
night comes down the spiral
staircase of the evening.
The breeze passes by so very close
as if someone just happened to speak of love.
In the courtyard,
the trees are absorbed refugees
embroidering maps of return on the sky.
On the roof,
the moon--lovingly, generously--
is turning the stars
into a dust of sheen.
From every corner, dark-green shadows,
in ripples, come towards me.
At any moment they may break over me,
like the waves of pain each time I remember
this separation from my lover.
This thought keeps consoling me:
though tyrants may command that lamps be smashed
in rooms where lovers are destined to meet,
they cannot snuff out the moon, so today,
nor tomorrow, no tyranny will succeed,
no poison of torture make me bitter,
if just one evening in prison
can be so strangely sweet,
if just one moment anywhere on this earth.