Syeda Henna Babar Ali

Syeda Henna Babar Ali is an accomplished poet and music composer in both English and Urdu.
She has received vocal training from Ustad Abdul Haq Qureshi, Ustad Nazim Ali Khan, Madam Farida Khanum,  and Malika-e-Tranum Nur Jehan.

Wet Sun

wet sun by syedahennababarali

Reviews

I read straight through the book, To Discover The Unknown. It is so interesting how different this book is compared to your former book, The Luminous Path. You are so much more open and frank about your life. I particularly liked "Prayer Comfort" which is much more personal than anything I've read of yours. The poems on relatives are wonderfully touching. I like very much the poems on Pakistan and the one on Bhutto. You have grown and changed beyond measure in these poems. I was amused to see that we have sparrows in Common. There are lively, vivid phrases throughout the book, "The cloud ate my dreams like a hungry crow, "or" I wake up in the arms of the day, "or" the hook of breath, "or" children throw stones to find the bottom of poverty, "the vortex of controversy, " day and night chase the tail of time, " and it goes on and on. You are much more politically daring than you once were.
Karen Swenson, American poet and journalist
Book: To Discover The Unknown
I was very affected by what you have to say in this book, particularly in those poems about PAKISTAN. They are a cry from your heart and you express your feelings with such gentleness that contrasts with the violence you are writing about, "delicate ideas like/ butterfly wings sitting in/ the cusp of the day...." I think we all need" A prayer to save us from ourselves...." Most certainly it is true that "It takes more courage to silence/ the barrel of a gun than to fire it." You voice the voice that is in so many of us. I love it when you let your fancy fly in words, as in "Phantom" when "in the rose garden where clouds/hang from the roof and the sun/ runs away into another world." Your spiritual poems are as lovely as ever. I particularly liked "Star," "Your World" and "Snowball."
Testimonial: Karen Swenson, American poet and journalist.
Book: A Rose
It is clear that the author of this collection of poems is writing in the ecstatic tradition of Islamic and Muslim devotees. Western readers are familiar with the works of Rumi and Kabir and find great spiritual wisdom from their words. It is clear that Henna shares their passion. Her life is not a life of generalities. Her words are not the over-used language of inspirational writing. Instead, her life is filled with the dailyness of ordinary doings that the Divine so surprisingly touches. And it is her unique voice readers want to hear. There is a quiet beauty expressed in this book.
Late Leigh, poet and author from California who believed in universal spirituality
Book: The Luminous Path
In the writer’s career there are frequent lapses into a bold explicatory style that is very much rooted in the tradition of aphoristic wisdom and pithy foreclosures which appear to be both an artistic compulsion on the part of the writer, and a psychological need on the part of readers. The collection Wet sun is enlivened by poems addressed to specific individuals , Kishwar Naheed, Bano Qudsia, where the directness of language, and an eye for dry, realistic detail give the writing a sharpness and flavor. She asserts that women can no longer “be brow-beaten into subjugation or bondage” that they “have a voice and a claim, and must have the confidence to know their worth.” As a poet she gives voice to issues concerning women, including motherhood. There is also more formal experimentation in the Wet Sun poems, with the poet later settling down to a confident, sedate, style. On the whole however, one feels that the poet is moving towards greater clarity and insight and that out of the disappointment and pain will come a resilience and dignity which characterizes the work of great women poets. So, in a sense, one is moving from the present to the beginnings; and one can easily see a certain uniformity of style and concerns, though the later poems are more forceful in their social commentary. Henna either writes a highly subjective surreal style or one of pithy comment. A good example of the first is seen in “To Me”. Henna’s awareness of the world around her is a positive aspect of the recent writing – in such poems as “United Europe”, “Political Time”, etc. – but her most well-achieved poems are those which concern the persona self in that the words have a more felt quality and the voice is agreeably direct.
Prof. Alamgir Hashmi. English poet of Pakistani origin
Book: Wet Sun
In fact the devotional poems, which form a major part of this collection and which according to the poet, point to “her journey towards God,” appear more meaningful when read in continuation of her love poems. When taken together these poems present an example of how a love experience transforms at times into a religious experience and how, in consequence, genuinely written love poems find their sublimation in devotional poetry. To be more precise, these delicately written poems tell the sad story of a forlorn soul, who being betrayed in her experience of love tries to find solace in the beneficent folds of the at Supreme Being, who is always kind enough. So, it is not devotional poetry written in a traditional way, being with God is the most wonderful feeling.
Late Bano Qudsia Pakistani short story writer, novelist, playwright, who was influenced by Mumtaz Mufti and Qudratullah Shahab.
Book: The Luminous Path
Henna Babar Ali's poem 'Serenity' is a typical example of her inkling towards Sufism. She says God has made His special space in her, nurtures and surrounds her. In the process what people say matters little, in this regard Henna's poems are a way forward for the English speaking nations. And for those who are interested, it is easy to comprehend the substance in this language. Henna's poems have a Sufi touch in them that are a source of soul searching for such people. In her poem 'Friendship and Unity' (page 127), she informs us that she did not realize when her love for God started. She expresses this bond as follows: A Prayer for Pakistan "The bonding links Your soul to mine, And mine to Yours Folds me in caring warmth Pampers and elates my spirit". Henna gives all credit to Almighty God for His blessings and she possesses the sensitivity to express it as opposed to an ordinary person who only appreciates the beauty of God but is unable to express it. The conclusion flows naturally as a small gesture of the Almighty making an ordinary person think about gratitude for mercy. It is God’s gift that a person whose mother tongue is not English has a natural style where sentiments and emotions flow smoothly as seen is in Henna’s poetry. She has felt Allah’s spiritual presence umpteen times. In her poem titled 'Submission and Surrender5' she says "Time and circumstance Force change and adjustments. The path forward is Immensely beautiful And captivating – To know and be in The presence of God. Silence surrounds me And I am lost in The nothingness of existence. Each moment He changes me more And more to make Me what He wants and wills. I submit and surrender Each day to His command His Will and, forget myself."
Dr. Amjad Parvez, Pakistani writer, engineer, and vocalist
Book: The Luminous Path
In fact the devotional poems, which form a major part of this collection and which, according to the poet, point to "her journey towards God," appear more meaningful when read in continuation with her poems of love. When taken together these poems present an example of how a love experience transforms at times into a religious experience and how, in consequence, genuinely written love poems find their sublimation in devotional poetry. To be more precise, these delicately written poems tell the sad story of a forlorn soul, who being betrayed in her experience of love tries to find solace in the beneficent folds of that Supreme Being, who is always kind enough. So, it is not devotional poetry written in a traditional way, being with God is the most wonderful feeling. Here is an attempt to express in words that most wonderful feeling, which is nearer to a mystical experience. The expression is easy and simple. There seems to be no attempt to say things in a poetic way. This feeling has its own poetry. It doesn't stand in need of a cultivated poetic style.
Late Intizar Hussain, Pakistani writer of Urdu novels, short stories, poetry and nonfiction.
Book: The Luminous Path
Like Keats, she seems to fall in love with words and looks at fine phrases like a lover. Many of her poems are about language, her use of words, and bundles of letters but it is Eliot over and over again who dominates her feelings: Henna weaves a web of poetical magic. Her imagery is rich with roses, “cascades of falling water”, “the unending sea”, images of sunrise and sunset, waterfalls and tree shades, “Transparent” is her favorite epithet. Eyes play a great role, they stare, they glare, and communicate, or smile deceitfully. But there is a great deal of barrenness. There is a clutter of images of mechanical modern life, the robots, the computers, Pajeros and accelerators, phone calls, dinner plates, Jazz music and cigarette boxes. One shares her feelings about politicians. “Political Time” is a depiction of our present situation: “The Centre pulls, and Provinces resist Who carries the blame? Guilt free, merciless politicians Play a hypocritical game to Serve their individual interest That are contrary to nationalism.” One shares her disgust of the country’s politicians though it is not possible to agree to her airlifting them and dropping them in Antarctica. One should pray for their Conversion.
Late Air Commodore Retd. Inamul Haq Three-star air officer in the Pakistan Air Force
Book: Midnight Dialogue
Syeda Henna Babar Ali has been writing for over a decade and the poems are more forceful in their social commentary. There is also more formal experimentation in the ‘Wet Sun’ poems, with the poet later setting down to a confident, sedate style albeit, but one lacking some of the spark and energy of the earlier work. On the whole, however, one feels that the poet is moving towards greater clarity and insight and that out of the disappointment and pain will come a resilience and dignity which characterizes the work of great women poets. "To Me": Woman, in your frame I live. somehow, tormented words behead me. I discover my body. Circle, The moon in grass. A line, Blood inflames. Of the second, "Love" and "Education" would be complementary examples in terms of compactness as well as elaboration of a point. In poems like "The Past of Men and Women," "The Road," "The Past and Future," and "The Broken Mirror," she examines man-woman relationship of various types, in different modes, and she has a searching eye for that which could but does not connect them. Love, compassion, and fellowship seem distinctly absent; happiness is seen as a sentiment to be dreamed about but neither allowed nor sought actively enough to be actually a possibility. Generally there is much energy despite the gloom. The energy flows freely into the writing. Henna's awareness of the world around her is a positive aspect of the recent writing—in such poems as "United Europe." "Political Time." etc.—but her most well-achieved poems are those which concern the personal self in that the words have a more felt quality and the voice is agreeably direct.
Shaista Sonnu
Book: Midnight Dialogue
In the writer’s career there are frequent lapses into a bold explicatory style that is very much rooted in the tradition of aphoristic wisdom and pithy foreclosures which appear to be both an artistic compulsion on the part of the writer, and a psychological need on the part of readers. The collection Wet sun is enlivened by poems addressed to specific individuals , Kishwar Naheed, Bano Qudsia, where the directness of language, and an eye for dry, realistic detail give the writing a sharpness and flavor. She asserts that women can no longer “be brow-beaten into subjugation or bondage” that they “have a voice and a claim, and must have the confidence to know their worth.” As a poet she gives voice to issues concerning women, including motherhood. There is also more formal experimentation in the Wet Sun poems, with the poet later settling down to a confident, sedate, style. On the whole however, one feels that the poet is moving towards greater clarity and insight and that out of the disappointment and pain will come a resilience and dignity which characterizes the work of great women poets. So, in a sense, one is moving from the present to the beginnings; and one can easily see a certain uniformity of style and concerns, though the later poems are more forceful in their social commentary. Henna either writes a highly subjective surreal style or one of pithy comment. A good example of the first is seen in “To Me”. Henna’s awareness of the world around her is a positive aspect of the recent writing – in such poems as “United Europe”, “Political Time”, etc. – but her most well-achieved poems are those which concern the persona self in that the words have a more felt quality and the voice is agreeably direct.
Prof. Alamgir Hashmi. English poet of Pakistani origin
Book: Wet Sun
delighted and honored to receive your beautiful book, Life’s Triangle about 3 or 4 days ago. I have browsed through a few poems and as always I’m amazed at your poetic gifts. You write from your heart and it is soothing and at the same time disturbing to read some of your poems. I’m opening and reading pages at random and I loved Life’s Purpose on Page 60 in particular. I will be reading through many more poems and I am sure I will share beautiful moments with them. I am glad you are continuing to write.
Bapsi Sidhwa, Pakistani-American novelist of Gujarati-Parsi descent who writes in English and resides in the United States.
Book: Life’s Triangle
I was delighted and honored to receive your beautiful book, Life’s Triangle about 3 or 4 days ago. I have browsed through a few poems and as always I’m amazed at your poetic gifts. You write from your heart and it is soothing and at the same time disturbing to read some of your poems. I’m opening and reading pages at random and I loved Life’s Purpose on Page 60 in particular. I will be reading through many more poems and I am sure I will share beautiful moments with them. I am glad you are continuing to write.
Bapsi Sidhwa, Pakistani-American novelist of Gujarati-Parsi descent who writes in English and resides in the United States.
Book: Life’s Triangle
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