NON-FICTION: The Anguished SOUL – Journal

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A Scatter of Verses, Prose and Paintings is an attempt to catalog the despair, violent emotions and inner turmoil that have hurt the imagination of artist and poet Sadia Babar. The book is divided into five parts, titled ‘Impressionist Images’, ‘Quest of Eve, Rise of Realism’, ‘Helen’s Odyssey Exploring Modernism’, ‘Trials of Mary, Surrealistic Dawn: Rise of Sophia’ and ‘Tales of Morrow’ and labeled by the writer as “microfiction”.

The term “microfiction” can be defined as an extremely brief style of fiction that always offers character and plot development. Microfiction poems are generally short, sometimes in chunks. The genre alternately appreciates names such as “sudden fiction”, “short film”, “flash fiction”, etc. [Paris Spleen], also called Petits Poèmes en prose, or short poems in prose.

The illustrations and paintings presented alongside reinforce the artistic impact and offer a fascinating comparison between colors and words. With immense sensitivity, Babar writes about the difficulties encountered in life, the tumult resulting from troubled relationships and the anguish of betrayal.

Hers is an intimately feminine voice; feelings and experiences arise from the depths of feminine sensibility. Her writing gives off a scream of pain, disillusionment, and the feeling of being left alone and torn apart, and she does so with a romantic intensity that would resonate with anyone. Take, for example, the short poem titled “4am”:

Book brings together a poet’s urgent need to be heard and to recount betrayal and loss encountered in life with its creative expressions in other mediums

Morning they say / Night I say,
This is the time / When lonely hearts
Beat their rhyme / When the forgotten tears
New fears / Falling / Down to the hard ground / Dry
And / Nobody / Heard

A similar note of capricious sadness and thoughtful melancholy can be discerned in many of his other poems, which often begin with powerful images and gradually build an incredible and painful portrait of being brutally hurt. For example, in ‘Doubt’:

Can it rain today? / To wash away the pain today?
To wash away the worry / You don’t need to hurry
For us / You little darling;
The world / It’s big / And you’ll have to dig / Your own little one
Sky / To survive
Their Tongues / Stirring / Bragging / Harassing / Jagging
The following lines of “Insects and Winter Forests” also relate the same mood;
You hear that scar / Scream …

Babar’s words capture the universal pain of longing and sensual desire, but approach it with a particularly daring perspective. In the dark and moving lines of “He Speaks Sometimes” she writes:

Tear this skin / dig, until the
Heart / Then and only then / You will see / How
I love you…
Also in ‘Soul Food’:
There’s no time to sleep / Just scratch and sweep
The bursts of pain / I just hope it’s clean / To scream again.

The poem “Letters to an Unseemly Lover” expresses a longing born of unrequited love. Elsewhere, a delicate touch of satire to document human frailty and the innate human characteristic of telling lies is evident, as in “Cracked China”, where the poet writes:

Something new please? / It sounds stale and rusty;
It smells bad and musty / It looks damp and dusty.
Oh I keep on rhyming / With my rhythm
To the beating of lies / I hear / Every / Bloody / Day.

We find helplessness and a sharp melancholy in the tone and his words come out like a painful burning awaiting peaceful sleep. Take “Wired Escape”, where it begins the poem with: It’s tiring to be tired and ends with: Death is the only truth.

Babar’s poetry reads like the urgent whisper of a soul eager to be heard and to recount the betrayal and loss encountered in life. Going through the verses, we have an acute sensitivity of the poet wanting to dig deep into sorrow and pain. Bottled as it is, she wants to let go of everything to try to free herself, to be able to breathe calmly. In the blunt headline “Operation Cleanup,” she writes:

Please give me that scalpel / I have to dig up the dirt,
It keeps my blood / From flowing;
Free / I want to bleed / The words …
She also has eagerness in her tone:
One last breath / Ready / Steady / Go… / Aah… / Gone.

Interestingly, after catharsis, the writer finds a renewed passion for celebrating disillusionment. His collection winds its way through loss, anguish, recovery and abandonment but, after a moment’s respite, guilt, regret and agony resurface and hurt with fresh, refreshed force. The emotions contained within are deep and complex, too big to be expressed clearly in words. But she gets away with it one way or another. His choice of diction favors archaic words – “you”, “it”, “you” – but it seems to work; set a whimsical tone, draw the reader’s attention to rhymes, and draw attention to certain urgent words.

Dotted throughout his book – scattered, if one takes a very literal approach – is Babar’s art. His painting “For a PTSD Survivor” is a stark commentary on the obvious and latent struggles in coping with post-traumatic stress disorder. Babar draws, in pencil on paper, the agonized and weary face of a woman, revealing her struggle with pain and the feeling of being trapped in a damaged shell. The glaring stitches indicate the healing process of the physical body, but the pain evident in her eyes reflects the difficulty in emotionally healing from the wounds or the scar itself.

With its scattering of words, sketches and colors, Babar’s book is a chronicle of the bewildering uncertainty and chaos of life.

The critic is a writer, artist and educator based in Lahore

A scattering of verses, prose and paintings
By Sadia Babar
Liberty, Karachi
ISBN: 978-9698729165
193pp.

Posted in Dawn, Books & Authors, August 15, 2021

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