Rajat Singh in Literary Hub:
During unspeakably dark moments, where do we turn? To facts? Beliefs? Or to someplace else? Facts organize the world, which we go mad to control. When we cling to our beliefs out of fear, they in turn dull our minds. But poetry, specifically that of the revolutionary poet, can both soothe our disquiet and awaken us to our complacency. Within the revolutionary poet’s words lies the potential not only to speak of our discontents, but also to bring us together, move us to action, and help us imagine how to create new futures.
This past month, we have been taking stock of the catastrophic loss that Donald Trump’s triumph has hollowed out among our nation’s people of color, among its minorities, among those who fear their further disenfranchisement and loss of voice. The night of the election, as I crawled into bed, unsure of what kind of America I’d wake up to, a slim volume of translated poems lay on my bedside table: verses written by the Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
In 1947, the British, hastening to grant the people of the Indian subcontinent their independence, split the region of Punjab between Hindus and Muslims so that each religious group could have their own state: India and Pakistan. Faiz documented the Indian subcontinent in the throes of uncertainty, tension, and horrific violence. Since the election, his poems, both nourishing and rousing, have kept me company as I’ve struggled to find words to articulate my anger, grief, and indignation at the nightmarish reality that awaits us.