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 important early 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 and later from 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 in the late 1960s, Daud Kamal was appointed a Professor of the Department of English, University of Peshawar, later becoming Chairman in 1980 and continuing 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 posthumous edition from India in 1988.
Some critical views
- 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 cultural-historcial 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)
- 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).