Poets, in general, can be divided into the following categories: those who inspire you to write poetry; those who make you fall in love with their chosen form of expression; those who encourage you to see life eyeball to eyeball; and those who enable you to embrace solitude and revisit love. But there are a handful of poets who help you do all of the above. Iftikhar Arif is one of them.

Arif is inarguably the most eminent living Urdu poet. He is a septuagenarian, which means much has already been written, talked and imagined about his life and work. Therefore, trying to shed more light on either his body of work or his personality would be an exercise in futility.

And yet, you can't help but get excited when you hear that he's come out with a new book - as happened last year with the collection of poems Baagh-i-Gul-i-Surkh [The Garden of Red Roses] - because it's always a cerebral and spiritual joyride. So you eagerly wait for 'what next?'.

Lo and behold, Maktaba-e-Danyal has now published the complete works of Iftikhar Arif, titled Sukhan-i-Iftikhar [Iftikhar's Verses] and it is a special treat not just for the poet's admirers, but for literature buffs as well. The reason is simple: it is top-notch poetry, something that, in this age of technological wonders - where popularity can smile upon you in two shakes of a lamb's tail and lose its lustre in a heartbeat - is a rarity of the most exceptional kind.

Maktaba-e-Danyal has published the complete works of the most eminent living Urdu poet and it is a special treat not just for the poet's admirers, but for literature buffs as well

Let's briefly touch upon the publication first. Since it is Arif's complete works compiled into one hefty and tastefully produced book, it contains all of his four collections - Mehr-i-Do Neem [The Divided Sun], Harf-i-Baryaab [The Blessed Words], Jahaan-i-Maaloom [The Known Universe] and Baagh-i-Gul-i-Surkh. If you are a reader of Urdu verses, chances are you've already read all of them. The image of the poet on the cover of the book is by distinguished architect Nayyar Ali Dada which, in a way, sets the tone for what's to come: a thinking man with a heart of gold.

Apart from the old, eloquently penned pieces by the late poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and critic Gopi Chand Narang that accompanied the first book, there are a couple of new pieces in Sukhan-i-Iftikhar by two modern-day giants of Urdu criticism: Nasir Abbas Nayyar and Dr Nomanul Haq. They provide a nice little...

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