Professor Kaiser Haq is undoubtedly one of the literary giants of our time. He is a renowned poet, an essayist, a translator and teacher all molded into one dynamic personality. Professor Haq completed his schooling at St. Gregory's and went on to study at Dhaka Government College. He then enrolled into the English Department of Dhaka University for his Honours and Masters degrees, having already decided to become a writer.
Professor Haq has been the recipient of many prestigious awards and scholarships, some of which are, the Pope Memorial Gold Medal and the Fazlur Rahman Gold Medal. He was also a Commonwealth scholar, at the University of Warwick, England, a Senior Fulbright Scholar, and Vilas Fellow, at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
His interest in literary work developed early on in life. “I became interested in writing during my last two years in school,” he tells us, “I started scribbling different things, short stories, a bit of poetry, for myself. At the time, I was really turned on by DH Lawrence; we studied one of his poems, 'Snake” as a part of our syllabus,” he elaborates. “It caught my fancy because of its interesting rhythms and its use of conversational English. The traditional English verses use meter and rhyme, but that style didn't interest me that much-- the rhythms of free verse which I discovered through Lawrence, attracted me more.”
Professor Haq also read widely in anthologies, and then individual collections, from Lawrence to TS Elliot to Carl Williams. “When I completed my MA I started teaching at the Dhaka University and did that till I received a commonwealth scholarship to the University of Warwick in England, where I went to complete my PhD,” he says.
He was interested in the literature of the First World War, and eventually, he wrote his dissertation on a forgotten writer known as Frederic Manning. “He wrote a marvellous war novel and some excellent war poetry,” he says, “So I did a critical biography of him, and distilled that into a long essay which was published in London Magazine. This was interesting because I was working with primary materials, getting hold of copies of his letters, from three continents, from Australia, America in libraries in different places and trying to put together an account of his life and work.”
Upon his return to Bangladesh, he resumed his post at DU and was eventually appointed a full time professor. He is currently on leave from DU and is teaching Modern Poetry and Creative writing at ULAB. He is also teaching part time at a few universities, namely BRAC, East West and NSU among others.
Among his numerous published works are, 'Published in the Streets of Dhaka: Collected Poems' (Dhaka: Writers. Ink, 2007), The Logopathic Reviewer's Song and Other Pieces (Aark Arts, London and UPL, Dhaka, 2002), Quartet (translation of Tagore's Chaturanga), Heinemann, U.K. 1993.
'The Wonders of Vilayet' (translation of the first Indian travel book on Europe), Peepal Tree Books, (Leeds, 2002), and 'Salman Rushdie and the Rise of the Indo-Anglian, (novel).
As a professor, he believes the students of Literature these days are vastly different than those from his university days. “The average student these days does not have enough English,” he explains. “The reason is that they don't get proper schooling in spite of all this hype about GPA 5. In our time, before 71, after SSC, the medium of studies was English for everyone. That system of course ended with the war of independence. Most students know that English is important and are under the impression that the English Department will teach them English. It isn't a language teaching department.” he says.