Daud Kamal 4 January 1935 - 5 December 1987(Urdu: داؤد کمال)) was a Professor of English Literature at University of Peshawar, Pakistan. He was educated at Cambridge University, UK. Kamal started writing poetry in his twenties and became one of the major English language poets of Pakistan. He received three gold medals for his poetry from the Triton College and his poems were recorded for the Library of Congress, Washington DC. USA. ‘Remote Beginnings’ and ‘A Selection of Verse’ (ISBN 0-19-577812-X), are his anthologies. He also did translations of the classic Urdu poet Ghalib in English.
Born at Abbottabad into an academic family. His father Mohammad Ali, S. Pk, was the Vice Chancellor of the Peshawar University. He got his early education at Burn Hall School in Srinagar(not to be confused with the branch of the school in Abbottabad, Pakistan); graduated with distinction from the University of Peshawar; obtained his tripos from the University of Cambridge. Starting off as a lecturer after his return from Cambridge, Daud Kamal was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Department of English, University of Peshawar in 1980 and continued to serve in this position till his death on December 5, 1987, leaving behind a wife, two daughters and a son.
Daud Kamal published his free verse translation 'Ghalib: Reverberations' in 1970 hailed by many as the best rendering of the master in English. His first collection 'Compass of love and other poems' appeared in 1973. This was followed by 'Recognitions' (1979), 'Selections of Faiz in English' (1984) and 'A Remote Beginning' 1985. Kamal's rendering of Faiz was published in another edition from India in 1988.Daud Kamal is a case in point since his poetry is discernibly reminiscent of the Imagist tradition as in his poem ‘Prayer-Beads’: Under the shade of a willow tree where the river bends in a rock-pool 23 Asma Mansoor prayer-beads rise to the surface from the mouth of an invisible fish. (‘Prayer Beads’ 9) Coppola evaluates Kamal’s poetry in the following words: Kamal possesses a unique sense of history and recognizes the need for an artist __ and indeed a country __ to connect with the past. As if to contradict the notion that Pakistan came into being only in 1947, he links this present-day country to the rich, illustrious history of the area Pakistan now occupies and insists that we recognize the continuity and commonalities between now and then. (‘Some Recent English-Language Poetry from Pakistan’ 206 – 207) With his first collection appearing on the scene in 1995, he plumbs into the “dumb throat of history” (Kamal ‘The Day Brightens Slowly’ 18) in drawing this historical continuum. That is why Kamal’s poetry is interwoven with local and religious imagery; of kingfishers and monasteries, of Hindu temples silhouetted by the glamour and mystique of the Arabian Nights. Yet his poetry over-arches into the present where the Arabian Nights have twisted endings that reflect the violent contemporary times: Baghdad is again on fire and the leather bags of merchant princes trampled and torn under the hooves of Mongol horses (‘A Rotting Pomegranate’ 2)
Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 4, No. 1 (2012) Local history permeates the texture of his poetry as he compares huge boulders to “the elephants of Porus” in ‘A Ruined Monastery’ (15). Since words must preserve, that is why Kamal’s poetry displays bravura of references ranging from Pablo Neruda, Akbar Nama, Ted Hughes, Ai Kwei Armah etc as his poetry essays to enshrine the cumulative legacy of wisdom peppered across both the Occident and the Orient. Emanating from introspection and loneliness, his vision permeates the grime of the contemporary times of treachery and betrayal; where “Coke has replaced iced-sherbet” (‘A Street Revisited’ 17); to touch upon “the variety and complexity” (Eliot, T.S: ‘The Metaphysical Poets’) of modern civilization. Patke too iterates upon the “economy of means with which he manages to be suggestive without being tied down to mundane detail” (Patke 71-72).
Kamal's work has been posthumously collected and published in the following titles: 'Rivermist' (1992), 'Before the Carnations Wither' (1995) and 'A Selection of Verse' (1997).