When it comes to looking for female poets who write in Punjabi, dozens of names appear in one’s mind but the ones that immediately catch attention are few like Amrita Pritam from India and Nasreen Anjum Bhatti from Pakistan. Anybody following their footsteps like Anjum Qureshi therefore needs encouragement. Let us first talk about the two senior Punjabi poetesses mentioned above. Amrita Pritam says, “When formless feelings are translated into words, it is poetry; it is like the passing mist, a momentary glimpse of the deep valleys of the heart.” Amrita’s hypothesis on poetry is that poetry and children are the foundation of the world and they take their time to come into being. A poet and the flame therefore consume themselves to light others up. Pritam’s first poetry book Amrit Lehran is conventional in form and matter. Having a sensitive mind, she seems naturally tied down to the past. Her poetry overflows with love. She is so much immersed in love that while identifying herself with the entity of her love, she says, “I am the beloved of Ranjha / Call me Ranjheti and Heer no more”. In Jiunda Jiwan, Pritam’s second book, she refuses to sing songs which are devoid of life, which do not unite the separated and which cannot bring together those confronting each other. She says, “My life’s vision goes far / my hopes are high / and my ambitions challenging.” Much can be said about her poetry with reference to her third book but we now proceed to the second name mentioned above. Nasreen Anjum Bhatti, was a poetess par excellence of both Punjabi and Urdu languages. Her persona reflected many shades as she was an impressive painter, a competent broadcaster and a diligent researcher. Unlike her flippant contemporary female poets, especially the Urdu poetesses, she was humble, shunned public relations and lived the life as a recluse. Nasreen had a lot of clarity of thought and her poetry was extremely rich in diction and modern sensibility. Unlike her flippant contemporary poetesses, she was humble, shunned public relations and lived life as a recluse. Nasreen had a lot of clarity of thought and her poetry was extremely rich in diction and modern sensibility She also raises voice for women. She rose to fame from her first poem, the last couplet of which is “Haar Di Bhar Garmi Che Pe Gaye / Peele, Main Te Amaltaas’ (in the hot summer, the Golden Shower tree / Cassia tree and I turned pale). This reviewer is amazed the way she knits the story of a girl in her long poem “Ohde Hath Saiyo’ (because of him, my friends). Deeply immersed in love and not being able to say ‘no’ to it, she says, “Ohde Hath Saiyo, Reejhan De Bhare / Nahi Murde Jai Main Karan Pare / Ohde Hath Saiyo, Paranh Kaun Kare? Ohde Hath Laaiyan Jind Jaan Sarre / Ohde Hath Saiyo, Reejhan Dei Bhare’ (His hands are full of cajoling. Cannot rebuff his hands. The moment he touches with his hands, my body and soul fills with life). The reason why everyone says that our first love is very powerful is because getting a sudden surge of emotions that you may not have felt before and getting introduced to it for the first time makes the first love powerful. That is what Nasreen had portrayed in the quoted stanza. She also decides to send a letter to God to come down and resolve her love issues. She says, “Yar Manaana Jokhum Saara / Tun Mun Neela Ho Jaye Saara / Allah Saaein Nu Arzi Panwaan / Thalle Aan Ke Kara Natara” (To lure the lover is a difficult proposition. One’s body and soul turns blue. Shall send a request to the Almighty to come down and decide my case on merit). Anjum makes the ‘Meri Tasbeeh De Daane’ (My prayer beads) as metaphor for her woes. In one of the stanzas of the poem with the same title, she says, “Meri Tasbeeh De Daane Bunh Le Tu / Tei Saari Galaan Mun Le Tun / Peeraan Vi Saari Bhun Le Tu / Mere Taare, Meri Chun Le Tu’ (take all the beads and agree to all my requests. Take all my pains, stars and moons). How do you love? Most people do not realise that there are really only two ways to love, with either a worldly love or the love of God. The easy way to distinguish between the two is that “worldly love” is always about self, whereas the “love of God” is always driven by a deep commitment for the other. Nasreen in her poem amalgamates the two forms of love. In this modern world, a poetess coming out with old diction and fresh metaphors is therefore a blessing that we witness in Nasreen’s poetry. She is thankful to Salim Qureshi, Zafar Iqbal, Muhammad Tehsin, Khaqan Haider Ghazi, Zahid Hassan and Raheel Ahmad Khan for their guidance. The book contains more than 50 poems. This reviewer winds up his submission on the last poem “Rang Rangila” that says, ‘Fair Milan Ge Kehnda Rehnda / Torr Charhan Ge Kehnda Renda / Eid Karan Ge Kehnda Rehnda / Shehr Phiran Ge Kehnda Rehnda” (He promises to meet next time when they shall consume the love. They shall celebrate Eid together and roam in the city – but that is never to be). The writer is an award-winning musician and author. He Tweets at @amjadparvez and can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, July 20th , 2017.