“I Swallowed The Moon: The Poetry of Gulzar” tries to make sense of the master’s words and images.

A book on Gulzar’s poetry was released in the presence of the master poet-lyricist at Jamia Millia Islamia in the Capital recently. The book, “I Swallowed The Moon: The Poetry of Gulzar” (HarperCollins India), is written by Saba Mahmood Bashir, associated with the university as a guest faculty. Saba has written the book as the culmination of her doctorate on Gulzar’s poetry.

Her book is divided into six chapters encompassing themes like beauty, form, language, style and manifestation of the moon, water and eyes in Gulzar’s poetry. States Saba, “My book focuses on the poetry of Gulzar, placing him as a Progressive poet in popular culture. The two-fold appeal of his poetry is discussed, how they are Progressive in nature and also popular and how both the aspects complement each other to complete his creative persona.”

Gulzar’s poetry is different from traditional Progressive poetry. Saba throws light on this aspect in the book.“With regard to being Progressive, the poetry he has written in the social context, about the various ills in the socio-cultural fabric of the nation, is discussed. In their manner, the Progressives had broken away from the style of the earlier writers. But Gulzar brought about a revolution by crafting the same images and language differently. If the Progressives were writing for the freedom of the country, Gulzar voices the ills like riots and killings, corruption, distrust of politicians and elections, poverty, rape and domestic violence in his compositions. In this way, Progressive poetry moved away from the traditional Urdu poetic idiom. His poetry is a stark illustration of this evolving literary movement.”

Gulzar has been writing for decades now and his poetry can still connect with the masses and also the young generation. The use of words and language plays a very important role here. Saba says, “Language and his expertise to relate with the masses are important aspects of his poetry. It can be noted that he is still able to connect with the changing times and the tastes of people. He has achieved considerable success in bringing classical Urdu poetry, folk and other oral traditions into modern poetry largely with his unique use of language. The language may be of the present day but the thoughts and stories were of the earlier era. He has managed to open the gates to traditions and cultures of the bygone eras for the present generation.”

Saba also writes about his signature style of imagery. “The characteristic style of Gulzar’s use of imagery — both juxtaposition of common and ordinary images and the unusual images — have been discussed at length. The parallel between the oft-used images on the moon, water and its manifestations, and eyes are drawn upon.”

Apart from the six chapters, there is also an interview where Gulzar talks about his craft, his influences, his ‘copyright on the moon’, his experiments with various forms like the ghazal, blank verse, the film song and the form that he has created — Triveni. The book also has a comprehensive list of Gulzar’s poems.