The ghazal for Maaz Bin Bilal becomes a way to love as well as to remember, to dialogue as well as to critique, to mourn as well as to memorialize. It aspires to the condition of statement and song, seeking to combine a love of rhetorical flourish with tender lyricism, political assertion with whimsy, even as it acknowledges its debt to forbears who range from Gandhi to Ghalib, Adrienne Rich to Agha Shahid Ali.
Seguing between the elegiac, the reflective and the playful, these poems lurch restlessly across Delhi and Belfast, Aleppo and Srinagar, in quest of the ‘inflammable’ word, driven by the ancient aspiration of poets down the ages to write ‘in fire’. — Arundhathi Subramaniam
‘Let poetry come,’ declares Maaz confidently in his opening ghazal, and come it does, in English and from Urdu, in such poems as ‘Biryani in Belfast’, destined to become a cult classic.
He is attracted to the trouble spots of the world and the trouble spots of the heart, and the marriage of Hindu and Muslim consciousness could hardly be more beautifully expressed than in the translation, ‘Holi’: Cast like a gem in the name of the prophet, Each drop falls with the beat of Al-lah, Al-lah, Only he may play with these colourful dyes Who has learnt to lose himself in Allah . . . Maaz strikes a contemporary note even when paying homage to past masters: ‘Whither the way to the bar, Ghalib…’ Let’s join the two of them there! — Gabriel Rosenstock