It was my misfortune to not be sitting across from Osama Iftikhar for our interview and the first interviews for Ethos. I emailed Iftikhar to see if he just so happened to live in Brooklyn, NY where I reside. I would have been willing to make a trip if he replied “No, I live in Philadelphia”. A sigh and a few moments later I’d be in on the train to Philadelphia to speak with this great poet, but the distance between us was much greater.
Iftikhar resides in Pakistan. A nation not known to conjure up thoughts of beauty in the western mind had produced the like of poetry that would make Shakespeare smile. There from Pakistan Iftikhar works as an engineer and runs a blog called ‘Poems and People’. Though Pakistan may not be on our list of countries to visit -maybe it should be. Iftikhar admits to Pakistan’s flaws he says, “Pakistan is a very beautiful and fractured society to be a part of, it never ceases to inspire me. Most of my work has an eastern touch, and that has only our Sufistic roots to thank. The Pakistani culture and scenery influences my work by providing a colorful, abstract and melancholy canvas upon which any aspiring intellectual can paint his words of pathos or gusto.”
Though one of many travels will have stories to tell only the one with depths can tell them well. And the one who truly seeks may find and inspired poet inside them. Iftikhar relates, “I have not travelled the world as much as I would have wanted to, nor has my palette experienced the taste of too many cultures and lives, therefore I try juxtaposing myself in various philosophical scenarios, writing thus in a manner that seems almost introverted… I… draw inspiration from the people that matter the most in my life.”
With the intimacy technology has come to play in our lives I think most of us can attest to the different roles we play with the help of the internet and social media. Though some take this ability to recreate themselves to extremes and use it as a means to deceive others most of us find it as a means to expand our identities and tap in to a part of ourselves that may not have been explored otherwise. It allows us not to chose between “This or that” our whole lives become “Also, and”. Iftikhar the engineer is also the poet, though he says, “I wouldn’t call something subtly inveterate to me an actual part of my life, however it does help me feel better about who I am and what I aim to do with my free time.”
Knight: I am amazed by your poetry! What made you start writing and when did you first decide to start your blog?
Iftikhar: Thank you, you are too kind, but I wish people could spend more time actually arguing with me about my point of view. I try to write about as many topics as I can develop a healthy perspective of. I started writing about two or three years ago, and I only starting publishing it on a blog around 10 months ago, when I finally realized the futility of a facile social image and its illusionary charm.
K: What’s your favorite poem of your own? Of someone else’s?
I: Its hard to appreciate my own work that much to actually have a favorite, but among others work, I love Paradise Lost, The Divine Comedy… and The Wasteland. These are not specifically poems, but they are wonderful works of prosaic literature.
K: What is the first poem you felt moved by? What do you remember about your experience?
I: The first poem I was moved by was The song of wandering Aengus by W. B Yeats, I remember I was 16 years old and it was the first time I actually pictured some one else’s words in my thoughts.
K: Have you ever read/ shared your poetry with family and friends? What was their reaction to it?
I: Yes, as a matter of fact I have, and they have always supported me. The first time I shared it with my friends, they were astonished to find a poet in me, a rugged 6’4 man. Of course they made a lot of fun at first but it was all in good spirit. They still give me a hard time for it every now and then, but they always end the conversation with a pat on the back, and I always take it in good humor…
K: What do you think makes a good poem?
I: Sincerity, aesthetic sense, elegance and regret.
K: Do you have a certain routine before you write a poem? Do you need a certain setup? Do you tend to think about a subject and write on it or just let it flow naturally? Or does it burst out of you and you find yourself desperately looking for a piece of paper?
I: I have no method of writing, and sometimes I have no idea what I am writing about. Inspiration is as capricious as our resolve to be greater, greater than what we are now and what we fear to remain.
K: Lastly, can you leave us with a poetic line:
I: I leave you with these words of better hope and thoughtful regret:
Eternal dreams though old and weary,
shall worthy remain though unfulfilled.
Read more from our friend Osama Iftikhar, poemsandpeople.wordpress.com
Convalescence Is A River Dead
-Osama Iftikhar, 2-10/14
May I flow as lucid as that
does flow red the river bed,
no longer dry the bed rock dead,
worthless as where I once sat.
Breathe it may a passive yawn,
feign I shall not bit displeasure,
nor may you children of leisure,
whether flows it dusk or dawn.
For you see now I am that winding
path of stones and aging bones
to where I lead the river unknown
is where I lose myself in finding.