Saturday, December 18, 2010

Patricia Prime

Some Moments of Love, Hamza Hassan Sheikh. Shirkat Printing Press.

Reviewed By Patricia Prime

The cover of Some Moments of Love depicts a romantic image of a young girl with a background of the sea, sunset and birds. In this, his first collection, Hamza Hassan Sheikh, writes about romantic love, his spiritual journey and nature. He has created an extraordinarily moving and poetic universe, at once richly physical and uncompromisingly metaphysical. Hamza Hassan Sheikh makes an emphatic step in these poems over the physical frontier into another space:

I saw towards the colourless sky
And thought
That in her eyes
All blueness of indigo sky has gathered
And there is no rescue.

Some Moments of Love contains poems that are hymns to love and life, grandly dense, hallucinatory in their intensity, lyrics of romance, passion and intimacy that circle each other like satellites. The poems are rhythmically driven, and dense with allusions, music and ideas. What the poet displays is spiritual determination, self-discipline. There’s nothing vague about his words: they aim at precise self-identification. The self’s trappings are elucidated and avoided:

The faces seem innocent
We love them.
But when they betray us,
The same innocent, pretty faces
Turn cruel, very cruel.
Now it’s enough,
Give me a chance!

The mystical lens is inevitably wide-angled, but universal empathy is not the first thing on his mind: self-salvation is his immediate target, the passionate nature of his own feelings the first limitation to surpass:

Look at my plight,
I have abided you in my sights
Turning over my youth,
Just on you.

Such a use of figurative language is quite rare in Some Moments of Love even when it is used it’s not to fire the imagination but to enlighten the mind-which is fine. The crux is this: for the words to function as pointers to a truer dimension of existence then they must be memorable in themselves; few of these poems are strong enough to lodge themselves in the mind. Fragile and far-removed from the hurly-burly of most contemporary writing, Hamza Hassan Sheikh is determined to explore the nature of romance and to make it a spiritual journey is perhaps a little too overt at times, and the poems are most successful where moments of hallucinatory vision catch up all the ideas and fuse them into something more, as in Love’s Force,

When the bloom danced with breeze
And it bent towards me,
By your love’s mighty force.

The poet is a natural observer, and one who continues to look long after most people would allow their gaze to drift. And it’s just then that the sun’s rays touch his face, or capricious draughts of the cool breeze dance on blooms and boughs. A rainbow appears and the poet sees pictures of himself and his lover appearing in the rain drops.

This very precise yet sensory writing is characteristic of Hamza Hassan Sheikh’s poetry, and it earths his subject matter. In “A Meeting”, he talks about a girl he once met and says,

‘I will help you’ to again her I told
In the dark shadow your hand I will hold.

These shadows are very much what Hamza Hassan Sheikh captures in his poetry.

The title of the collection is apt: these are romantic moments, stories set in a territory that belong to the poet, but could have a universal truth to them.

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