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Poetry was way of making sense of the madness: Fatima Bhutto

Friday September 09, 2011 06:23:32 PM, Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS

New Delhi: Blood, sword and suffering are the heartbeat of Fatima Bhutto's literary soul. And it was fear that propelled her poetry, says the heir to Pakistan's tragedy-scarred Bhutto family.

An accomplished poet, Fatima, 29, captures love, loss and the solitude of her circumstances in her verses.

"I have not written poetry for a very long time, but poetry like prose is ultimately a means of expressing what seems difficult otherwise," Fatima, who will be in India for the Kovalam Literary Festival Oct 1-2, told IANS in an email interview from Karachi.

"Kovalam will be my first visit to south India. And I'm looking forward to seeing more of the country and interacting with new audiences and opening bridges between our cities and stories."

She won't be reading out just from her poetry. Fatima has authored "Whispers of the Desert", an anthology of poetry, as well as "08.50 am", an account of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and "Songs of Blood and Sword", a searing document of the turbulence that had ripped her family apart on her native turf.

Born in 1982 in Kabul to Murtaza Bhutto, the son of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Fatima carries the illustrious and violent lineage on her young shoulders.

Her grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged to death in 1979. In 1996, Fatima's father Murtaza was gunned down in Karachi by the police during the tenure of "aunt" Benazir Bhutto. Eleven years later, Benazir Bhutto met with a similar fate in Rawalpindi in 2007 when she was shot dead at a rally.

Fear propelled her to poetry, Fatima said.

"It (fear) was a strong emotion. I started writing during a very violent time in Karachi's history. And it was a way of trying to make sense of the madness around," Fatima said.

Poetry helped. She railed at the rage that tore through Pakistan in the 1990s and defined in words the affection she harboured for "papa" Murtaza.

"To my darling papa,
with all the love in
the world...this is our story...," she penned in an ode to Murtaza Bhutto in the "Whispers of the Desert".

For Fatima, poetry still touches the subcontinent's young sensitivities despite the proliferation of prose.

"I don't think youngsters are shying away from poetry. Tishani Doshi is a fascinating poet from the subcontinent and is part of a young generation of writers who seem to be able to do both - poetry and prose," Fatima said.

But there is nothing wrong with a focus if there is one on story-telling, Fatima said.

"Remember that for hundreds of years during colonial rule we were not allowed to tell our own stories here in the subcontinent," the writer said.

Fatima is currently writing a book on Karachi. "I am still in very early pages at the moment," she said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at




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