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The Taste of Words : An Introduction to Urdu Poetry

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The Taste of Words: An Introduction to Urdu Poetry, edited and translated by Raza Mir, is a collection of some of the most beautiful pieces of Urdu poetry. Summary of the Book If you are one of those who always get delighted by the spoken rhythm of an Urdu couplet and desired to completely comprehend and appreciate its nuances, if you ever wanted to connect with a ghazal mor The Taste of Words: An Introduction to Urdu Poetry, edited and translated by Raza Mir, is a collection of some of the most beautiful pieces of Urdu poetry. Summary of the Book If you are one of those who always get delighted by the spoken rhythm of an Urdu couplet and desired to completely comprehend and appreciate its nuances, if you ever wanted to connect with a ghazal more profoundly but were unsettled by its puzzling treaties, if you are confused between a rubaai and a qataa, or a musaddas and a marsiya, here is a book for you! The Taste of Words provides a fresh, peculiar and reachable entry point for beginners looking for enhancing their knowledge of this beautiful language. The vibrant collection of poetry includes poems written by legends like: Mir Taqi Mir and Mirza Ghalib to the poems penned by contemporary game changers like Gulzar and Javed Akhtar. Raza Mir’s translation not only draws out the passion and pathos from these ageless verses, but also offers sharp perceptions and interesting trivia. About Raza Mir Raza Mir is the co-author of Anthems of Resistance: A Celebration of Progressive Urdu Poetry. His translated works from Urdu to English, based on his expertise and proficiency over both the languages, have been widely commended.


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The Taste of Words: An Introduction to Urdu Poetry, edited and translated by Raza Mir, is a collection of some of the most beautiful pieces of Urdu poetry. Summary of the Book If you are one of those who always get delighted by the spoken rhythm of an Urdu couplet and desired to completely comprehend and appreciate its nuances, if you ever wanted to connect with a ghazal mor The Taste of Words: An Introduction to Urdu Poetry, edited and translated by Raza Mir, is a collection of some of the most beautiful pieces of Urdu poetry. Summary of the Book If you are one of those who always get delighted by the spoken rhythm of an Urdu couplet and desired to completely comprehend and appreciate its nuances, if you ever wanted to connect with a ghazal more profoundly but were unsettled by its puzzling treaties, if you are confused between a rubaai and a qataa, or a musaddas and a marsiya, here is a book for you! The Taste of Words provides a fresh, peculiar and reachable entry point for beginners looking for enhancing their knowledge of this beautiful language. The vibrant collection of poetry includes poems written by legends like: Mir Taqi Mir and Mirza Ghalib to the poems penned by contemporary game changers like Gulzar and Javed Akhtar. Raza Mir’s translation not only draws out the passion and pathos from these ageless verses, but also offers sharp perceptions and interesting trivia. About Raza Mir Raza Mir is the co-author of Anthems of Resistance: A Celebration of Progressive Urdu Poetry. His translated works from Urdu to English, based on his expertise and proficiency over both the languages, have been widely commended.

30 review for The Taste of Words : An Introduction to Urdu Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Madhulika Liddle

    In his foreword to Raza Mir’s The Taste of Words: An Introduction to Urdu Poetry, Gulzar writes: Ajab hai yeh zubaan Urdu Kabhi yoonhi safar karte Agar koi musaafir sher padh de Mir, Ghalib ka Woh chaahe ajnabi ho Yahi lagta hai woh mere vatan ka hai Telling proof of the beauty of this language: its ability—and, in particular, the ability of its best poetry—to evoke a sense of belonging, to create instant friendships. It is this language, and especially its poetry, that Mir introduces so effectively i In his foreword to Raza Mir’s The Taste of Words: An Introduction to Urdu Poetry, Gulzar writes: Ajab hai yeh zubaan Urdu Kabhi yoonhi safar karte Agar koi musaafir sher padh de Mir, Ghalib ka Woh chaahe ajnabi ho Yahi lagta hai woh mere vatan ka hai Telling proof of the beauty of this language: its ability—and, in particular, the ability of its best poetry—to evoke a sense of belonging, to create instant friendships. It is this language, and especially its poetry, that Mir introduces so effectively in this book. He begins with an introduction to Urdu, its origins and development (all very briefly discussed), before moving on to an introduction to its poetry. In this section, he explains each type of poem and its main technicalities: the difference between, say, a ghazal and a nazm, a qataa and a marsiya. Pertinent examples are provided, and it’s a good, user-friendly guide to understanding the basics of these forms. Even if you really don’t know Urdu. The bulk of the book consists of the poems themselves: divided by poet, in chronological order. Beginning with Amir Khusro and ending with Zeeshan Sahil, each poet is introduced through a brief biography, followed by anywhere between one to three poems; Ghalib is the exception, with five pieces of poetry. Some are complete poems, some are excerpts of longer works. Each is first transliterated in English, then followed by a translation. The range of subjects and styles is impressive: there’s everything here from scathingly socialistic poetry (Sahir Ludhianvi’s Taj Mahal is here) to deeply romantic, from religious verses extolling Ali and the martyrdom at Karbala, to humour. Almost all the most popular poems—pieces that have been sung and recited in cinema, or by famous singers—are here. With just about every poet and sometimes every poem, Mir provides notes: on other works about the poet, the significance of certain motifs or words in the poetry, and—these are frequent—good recorded performances of poetry and where they can be accessed on the net. Not that it’s flawless. I found the frequent inconsistencies in transliteration irritating (a and aa are used in about equal measure to denote ā, and thi and thhi are used interchangeably, for example). A lot of the poems have been translated in such a way as to make the English lines rhyme as well—and this doesn’t always work; it ends up being somewhat clumsy at times (in contrast, I found the translations of the azaad nazm, the free verse, often non-rhyming, better). Plus, there are errors now and then: Sadhana (and not the actual Mala Sinha) is mentioned as the female lead of Gumraah; Dosti is mentioned as having been made in 1946, not the actual 1964; and the translation of Javed Akhtar’s Yeh khel kya hai could cause confusion among Westerners, since Mir translates wazir (the chessman equivalent to the queen) as ‘minister’ and pyaada (the pawn) as ‘foot soldier’. But I’m nitpicking. These can be overlooked, and the end result, really, is a very useful, very enjoyable book. Educational, highly readable, and a fine compilation of some of the very best Urdu poetry to be found on the planet.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Savir Husain Khan

    The book starts with the lines Urdu is a nation unto itself. Wherever it travels, it creates its own world. It was born in India but does not belong to India alone. It is the official language of Pakistan but does not belong to Pakistan alone. When it reached Oslo (Norway), it settled there. It went to Great Britain and created its own home. It reached Canada, and a community emerged. It reached the United States and became a native tongue. The truth is that instead of ‘embraced’ if we could use The book starts with the lines Urdu is a nation unto itself. Wherever it travels, it creates its own world. It was born in India but does not belong to India alone. It is the official language of Pakistan but does not belong to Pakistan alone. When it reached Oslo (Norway), it settled there. It went to Great Britain and created its own home. It reached Canada, and a community emerged. It reached the United States and became a native tongue. The truth is that instead of ‘embraced’ if we could use a different metaphor, we would say ‘adopted by lips’. Wherever Urdu goes, it clasps people in a bear hug. It becomes a tradition unto itself. For Urdu is, after all, the lingua franca of a culture. I am a native speaker of Urdu and a lover of Urdu poetry, but there is a classification in the Urdu poetry that I did not know earlier or more accurately I did not know the exact meaning of these categories earlier. First, fifty pages tell the different categories of Urdu poetry and what is the grammatical and interpretational differences in all of these of categories. In rest of the book, Mir assembled a collection of 47 famous Urdu Poets and their famous couplets with some biographical account of there lives.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Swarnima

    Kuch lafz mein hi agar bayaa ho jati toh har mod se shayar hi guzarte. :)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Harsimran Khural

    A book that claims to be an "Introduction to Urdu Poetry" should at least have meanings of Urdu words given alongside each piece. In addition, one has to turn the page repeatedly to read the English translation, which is annoying. The collection though, is quite good.

  5. 4 out of 5

    PS

    Loved the introduction and the translations were decent too.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wardah Beg

    The collection was nice. Translations, not so much.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Viral Shah

    3.5 rounded up to 4

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ankit

    ये कैसा इश्क़ है उर्दू ज़बाँ का - What is this love of Urdu मज़ा घुलता है लफ़्ज़ों का ज़बाँ पर - That the taste of words dissolves on the tongue This book is a very good introduction to the Urdu poetry for people (like me) who never got the chance to learn it formally. Raza Mir has chosen 2-3 ghazals per Shayar from some 50 Shayars with their rhythmical translation. (I, for one, was looking for the literal translation of the poems.) He also gives a brief summary of the Shayar's life as well as pro ये कैसा इश्क़ है उर्दू ज़बाँ का - What is this love of Urdu मज़ा घुलता है लफ़्ज़ों का ज़बाँ पर - That the taste of words dissolves on the tongue This book is a very good introduction to the Urdu poetry for people (like me) who never got the chance to learn it formally. Raza Mir has chosen 2-3 ghazals per Shayar from some 50 Shayars with their rhythmical translation. (I, for one, was looking for the literal translation of the poems.) He also gives a brief summary of the Shayar's life as well as provides cultural and political context to the poems. Also, I would have preferred if Raza Mir also included the poems in Devnagri Script as well (I find it much easier to read compared to the current 'Hinglish' format of the book. You can find the Devnagri version of almost all the poems on rekhta.) All in all, if you're interested in reading Urdu poetry, do give this book a try. I hope I keep this journey going and learn more Urdu in the next year - देखिए पाते हैं उश्शाक़ बुतों से क्या फ़ैज़ इक बरहमन ने कहा है कि ये साल अच्छा है - Mirza Ghalib

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mukesh Kumar

    Has a very informative and engaging introduction about the evolution of the north Indian languages. Some snippets of history and biographies of poets thrown in as well. Though a couple of names could be missing, however, this is a good starting point for all newbies. And although would have been very useful to have a glossary of words at the end, still it serves its purpose of spurning interest in the reader. Enjoyable read if done slowly. Rekhta/Hindavi/Hindustani/Hindi/Urdu, whatever you call i Has a very informative and engaging introduction about the evolution of the north Indian languages. Some snippets of history and biographies of poets thrown in as well. Though a couple of names could be missing, however, this is a good starting point for all newbies. And although would have been very useful to have a glossary of words at the end, still it serves its purpose of spurning interest in the reader. Enjoyable read if done slowly. Rekhta/Hindavi/Hindustani/Hindi/Urdu, whatever you call it, it offers a whole world of great language, imagery and themes.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Deepankar

    Its a good book especially for readers who are just getting introduced to Urdu. Its a handy catalogue of prominent Urdu Poets and their chosen couplets. It can be read in any mood from any page :) the following lines are again just picked up from the page which opened Chal saath, ke hasrat dil-e-mahroom se nikle, Aashiq ka janaaza hai, zara dhoom se nikle. Walk along with that heartbroken procession awhile Its the funeral of a lover, bury him in style.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mohit Pawnday

    while it lies somewhere in the back end of my bookshelves I end up discovering it time and again when I am looking up a new poem translation .I think the book by refusing to print the Urdu script looses a certain charm and romance also undone by bad production values

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ashfaq Farooqui

    A brief introduction to Urdu poetry over the ages, this book takes us through the development of Urdu poetry. From Amir Khusro to Zeeshan Sahil. The book is chronologically written and divided based on authors. Each author has a short biography followed by one or more poems. The choice of poems was enjoyable. The biography for each author was short and concise. However, it would have been interesting to hear a few more words about the author and his work. At least, some more introduction to the A brief introduction to Urdu poetry over the ages, this book takes us through the development of Urdu poetry. From Amir Khusro to Zeeshan Sahil. The book is chronologically written and divided based on authors. Each author has a short biography followed by one or more poems. The choice of poems was enjoyable. The biography for each author was short and concise. However, it would have been interesting to hear a few more words about the author and his work. At least, some more introduction to the poems chosen. This was done for some but not all poems. Me, being not so great at reading the urdu script it was great to have a book with transliterations. I have not found many books similar to this, and hence should not complain about the transliterations. The translations were decent and sometimes not the best. I think there exist better form of translations for interested readers. As many reviewers of this book have stated, a word to word translation of the poems would have been great actually! Or, at least the meaning of certain keywords that are fairly advanced should have been included. All in all, it was a delight reading the book. Listening to the different rendetions of the poems and exploring other peoms by the poets is something to do while reading this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Balvinder

    Umr-e-daraaz maang ke laaye thhe chaar din, Do aarzoo mein kat gaye, do intizaar mein. -- Seemab Akabarabadi. The book fulfils its purpose i.e. to provide an introduction to the Urdu Poetry. However, the translations, I believe, could have been much better as in multiple cases one can vaguely comprehend the depth and the beauty of the ghazals but the translations fail to bring that to the surface. The author fails to do justice to both the poet and the delicate subject-matter at hand. Also, some s Umr-e-daraaz maang ke laaye thhe chaar din, Do aarzoo mein kat gaye, do intizaar mein. -- Seemab Akabarabadi. The book fulfils its purpose i.e. to provide an introduction to the Urdu Poetry. However, the translations, I believe, could have been much better as in multiple cases one can vaguely comprehend the depth and the beauty of the ghazals but the translations fail to bring that to the surface. The author fails to do justice to both the poet and the delicate subject-matter at hand. Also, some shers are wrongly attributed (Like the afore-mentioned Seemab Akbarabadi one which is attributed to Zafar).

  14. 5 out of 5

    vikram chandran

    A must read for anyone who loves poetry. A beautiful sample of urdu poems across the centuries that will only tempt you to wade further and possibly drown into the ocean of poetry.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laraib Sultana

    Good

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ashar Rehman

    It's an amazing book to learn Urdu

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rishi Kumar

    Nice

  18. 5 out of 5

    Himanshu Bhatnagar

    My father bought this book last year and I took it along as a light read on a recent trip. And boy, was I glad I did! I must start though, by sating that if you're into Urdu shayari deeply, this book does not have much to offer you. You would already know the life and times of most Urdu poets and would be well versed in their celebrated works. At most, you might come across a few, lesser known poets and maybe enjoy their works. As an introduction to Urdu poetry however, this book is invaluable. It My father bought this book last year and I took it along as a light read on a recent trip. And boy, was I glad I did! I must start though, by sating that if you're into Urdu shayari deeply, this book does not have much to offer you. You would already know the life and times of most Urdu poets and would be well versed in their celebrated works. At most, you might come across a few, lesser known poets and maybe enjoy their works. As an introduction to Urdu poetry however, this book is invaluable. It is not dense, or technical nor hard to understand. The language is accessible, the translations lucid, the style of writing engaging and personable. Every poet in the book gets a short introduction, with maybe a delightful little anecdote thrown in. The ghazals are chosen with care, and while they might not always be the most famous or best known creations of the authors, do serve to highlight the poet's style and method of expression. The Taste of Words is written entirely in English, even the original verse is presented in the English script. The book is oriented to a reader with little to no understanding of the genre and maybe even the language, and the choice of script emphasizes this. The Taste of Words is a wonderful entryway into the glorious world of Urdu shayari. If you are intrigued by this art and have always felt overawed by the difficult language, the convoluted idioms, the ornate phraseology, and the even more obscure translations you have come across in other books, this is the book for you. And if after reading this book, you are still not fascinated with Urdu shayari, you can safely conclude that Urdu shayari and you aren't meant to be. :)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Malin Näfstadius

    So this was really a good first glance for someone who hasn't encountered Urdu poetry before. It has an introduction that explains the context, and then mini-bios of each poet as they appear in chronological sequence throughout the book. It really makes me thirsty for more, as well as supply me with sources to find it. The only thing preventing me from giving five stars is that I would have liked it to also have been printed in Urdu script, parallel with the Roman transcript and English translati So this was really a good first glance for someone who hasn't encountered Urdu poetry before. It has an introduction that explains the context, and then mini-bios of each poet as they appear in chronological sequence throughout the book. It really makes me thirsty for more, as well as supply me with sources to find it. The only thing preventing me from giving five stars is that I would have liked it to also have been printed in Urdu script, parallel with the Roman transcript and English translation.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gaurav Arora

    A very well written primer to Urdu Poetry. I only had a problem with its formatting. Looking up the meaning of each line could sometimes make me turn 3 pages and tally the para I was on. Apart from that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gave me a decent introduction to what I can explore a lot more.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pisces.Ttgmail.Com

  22. 5 out of 5

    Moizza

  23. 5 out of 5

    Samir

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hrittik Roy

  25. 5 out of 5

    Satender

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ashwini Chitnis

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shivam Thakur

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anurag Saxena

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tuba Rehman

  30. 5 out of 5

    Prateek Porwal

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