Expression and Reach

Rashed, N. M. The Marriage of Abu Lahab. Trans. Rashed, N. M.. 2 pp. 2 sheets. 8.5 x 11". Typewritten. Translation of N. M. Rashed's "Abū Lahab kī shādī". English. Box 2. Folder 5: English translations of NMR poetry and letters to editors. 001. Digitized by Zahra Sabri. Catalogued by Pasha M. Khan. Donated (2015) by Yasmin Rashed Hassan to the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Montreal. Full item here.
This is a typewritten copy, probably written on Rashed's typewriter, of the English translation that Safdar Mir and Rashed wrote of his poem "Izhār aur rasā’ī." The Urdu original of the first stanza shown above is as follows:

— مو قلم، ساز، گلِ تازہ، تھرکتے پاؤں
بات کہنے کے بہانے ہیں بہت
آدمی کس سے مگر بات کرے؟
بات جب حیلۂ تقاریبِ ملاقات نہ ہو
اور رسائی کی ہمیشہ سے ہے کوتاہ کمند
بات کی غایتِ غایات نہ ہو!1

Rashed sent a version of this translation to the poet Carolyn Kizer in 1966. In the accompanying letter (in the NMR Archive), he refers to it as "Safdar's rendering," indicating probably that Safdar Mir had first written a version that Rashed later corrected. He also notes in his letter that in that version Safdar Mir had left out one line, which Rashed provided for Kizer in red in the margin. In the present version there are no major omissions, though certain repeated lines have not been rendered. Kizer finally published a rendering of Rashed's poem—probably with the aid of Safdar Mir’s translation, which he had sent to her—in rhyming couplets, in her 1988 anthology Carrying Over. It begins:
Paintbrush and lute-string or new modeling clay
Are ways of saying what we want to say.
But we, who once wrote of lovers coming together,
How can we speak, now, of the whole world’s weather?
What we would reach is always out of reach,
The end of art is not the end of speech.2
Muhammad Safdar Mir (1922-1998) is now best known as a journalist who wrote for The Pakistan Times and Dawn, often using the pen-name "Zeno." He was also a poet, an actor, and a professor of English literature at Government College, Lahore. Two of his letters to Rashed have been preserved in our archive, as well as several newspaper articles by him on Rashed. Rashed recommended him to Kizer as an excellent translator, and a good poet and critic. Kizer did publish a rendering of one of Safdar Mir's poems, which she entitled "Elegy."3

1Rashed, N. M. Lā = insān. 1st ed. Lahore: Al-Misāl, 1969. pp. 86-87. For a published version of this translation, see Noori, Fakhar ul-Haqq. Nūm Mīm Rāshid kī nazmeñ aur un kī Angrezī tarājim. Faisalabad: Misāl, 2013. pp. 262-263.

2Kizer, Carolyn. Carrying Over: Poems from the Chinese, Urdu, Macedonian, Yiddish, and French African. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1988. p. 72.

3Kizer, Carolyn. Carrying Over: Poems from the Chinese, Urdu, Macedonian, Yiddish, and French African. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1988. p. 73.

Article by Pasha M. Khan
June 11, 2015

To Cite the Article

Khan, Pasha M. "Expression and Reach." Noon Meem Rashed Archive, Jun 11, 2015.

To Cite the Item:

Rashed, N. M., “Expression and Reach,” Noon Meem Rashed Archive, accessed May 27, 2024,




Rāshid, N. M., -- 1910-1975
Rāshid, N. M., -- 1910-1975 -- Translations into English.


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Rashed, N. M.


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Mir, Mohammad Safdar


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English translations of NMR poetry and letters to editors

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Translation of N. M. Rashed's "Izhār aur rasā’ī".





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8.5 x 11"


Zahra Sabri


Pasha M. Khan


Yasmin Rashed Hassan

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Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Montreal