Poetry jam 'is like a family gathering'

More than two dozen poets gathered in the capital for an Urdu symposium on their craft.

Dr Akram Shanzad, from Pakistan, reads his poetry at the mushaira in Abu Dhabi at the weekend.
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ABU DHABI // It was still three hours before showtime but Dr Pirzada Qasim was already getting anxious about taking the stage to read one of his poems.

"I've been to the UAE more than 30 times but it's always a little nerve-wracking when you are reading your own work," said Dr Qasim, a Pakistani and one of almost 30 poets who performed in the capital last Friday night.

Hundreds packed the theatre at the Armed Forces Officers Club for the annual "mushaira", the Urdu word for poetry symposium.

Twelve poets from India and Pakistan and 16 local scribes read works that dealt mostly with social issues and what Dr Qasim called "the suffering of people".

"Romanticism, time and humanity are all important components of Urdu poetry," said Dr Qasim, who is also the vice chancellor of the University of Karachi.

"My poetry reflects the feeling of my people and of my time, and the best part of the mushaira is that the reader can see the audience instantly appreciate the work then and there."

The mushaira is an active affair. If the audience likes the work being performed, they will cheer and shout, sometimes repeating favourite phrases from the poem.

"It is our great tradition," said Ibrahim Ashk, who writes Hindi song lyrics for films in India.

"But it is not just me standing on a stage and reading. This is like a family gathering. This is a big performance."

The mushaira in the capital, now in its sixth year, runs all night and brings expatriates together with pre-eminent poets from the subcontinent.

Zahoor Ul Islam, the main organiser of the mushaira and an accomplished poet, hosted the event and recited some of his own ghazals, an ancient form of lyric poems typically read at the mushaira.

"This is a very important cultural event and people come to hear beautiful poetry from very famous people in their own language," Mr Ul Islam said.

"It is a chance to share poetry, to share writing that says something."