A labour of love

April 14, 2024

An anthology touching on the ups and downs of the human experience

A labour of love


umans begin speaking their native language within a few years of birth, becoming adept at effectively communicating their thoughts, emotions and feelings to others. Speech develops naturally as long as humans continue to live in the company of others. However, the same cannot be said for the art of writing.

Have you ever noticed that while almost everyone around us speaks, only a handful of people write? The reason is that it requires skill, patience and a lot of effort to put one’s thoughts into words. Rightfully, writing is something that elevates humans to superhuman status. In a country where there are very few writers and getting a book published is a Herculean task, the importance of writing becomes paramount.

It has always been my earnest desire and aim to acclaim writers for the great service they render to the nation. Much to my delight, Humaira Irfan, an associate professor of English at the University of Education and the author of two other books, recently published her third book—an anthology of 28 poems titled A Soul’s Meditation. Writing prose is different from carefully crafting poems; a poem may take a day, a week, even a month to compose.

As she mentions at the start of the book, the poet recognised her potential for poetry during her PhD studies. While gathering data for her dissertation, she composed some lines out of “anguish” and “chaos.“ This eventually became the impetus behind her anthology. Over the next 12 years, she went through many phases of her life but never forgot to compose poetry.

She crafts each and every poem beautifully, weaving a tapestry of everlasting longings and unfulfilled ambitions. The element of hope and optimism reigns supreme throughout the book. Her vocabulary speaks volumes about her expertise in and command over the language. Almost always, there is much more to her couplets than meets the eye. “Silence is never empty, lies frozen in steep meadows,” she writes in her poem Silence, giving a subtle hint that unsaid words have more to them than meets the eye.

Have you ever noticed that while almost everyone around us speaks, only a handful of people write? The reason is that it requires skill, patience and a lot of effort to put one’s thoughts into words. 

In another delicately woven poem, The Soul Doesn’t Break Up, she writes:

I give my subtle feelings

To one whom I venerate

Without envisaging anything back

Mere reward is a gentle glance.

These lines beautifully capture the essence of selfless love, where one gives without expecting anything in return, finding fulfilment in the simple gesture of a gentle glance. It takes delicate and magnanimous hearts to fathom the depth of these beautiful lines. Love inspires people to act in ways they might never otherwise consider, bringing out the best in them. The poet touches on the theme of love in a way that is both unique and universal.

My Dreams is another chef-d’oeuvre in the book. It is also the shortest poem, dealing with themes of aspirations, unfulfilled desires and, above all, hope. Instead of ending on a gloomy note, she ensures that readers conclude each poem with something in their hearts that they can achieve; something they can live for; something they can strive for and cherish in the days to come. Hope is like light; it is not there everywhere, all the time. Surprisingly, the poetess manages to keep the optimistic element alive throughout her poems.

This life, so ephemeral, does not seem sufficient to appreciate the beauty captured by artistic minds. Even mundane and dull things appear attractive when expressed through the poets’ words. Poets perceive what others are sometime unable to see. Moreover, they are adept at creating extraordinary things out of fairly ordinary ones and vice versa. In her poem A Portrait on the Wall, Humaira compares the figure in the painting to the sun, creating the impression that the figure has the capacity to illuminate the lives of people and chase away their grief. Sometimes, it is the love in the heart of the beholder that makes the object look fantastic. Other times, the object is truly fascinating and the praise is apt.

The book is a masterpiece, touching on many aspects of human experience. Vivid imagery, masterfully chosen words, and the supreme importance of human emotions are the outstanding features of Humaira Irfan’s anthology. This is her first attempt at poetry. Surprisingly, it leaves nothing to be desired.

A Soul’s Meditation

Author: Dr Humaira Irfan

Publisher: Daastan Publishers, 2024

The reviewer is an MPhil scholar

A labour of love