In Afghanistan, poetry is held in high esteem, especially in literary forms that were influenced by other Arabic cultures. However, folk poetry, known as “landays,” is one of the most long-lasting and popular forms of poetry in the region. Used mainly by the 20 million Pashtun women who live in the area, the powerful landays can be re-written time and time again in order to reflect the current state of their lives and their inner emotions.
Poet Eliza Griswold and photographer Seamus Murray decided to journey to Afghanistan in order to document the landays of the Pashtun women after hearing the heart-breaking story of a young girl who was forbidden from writing poetry and, in protest, set herself on fire. The end result of their journey is a collection of Pashtun women’s voices as they recount the awful drone strikes, the troubles of daily life, rage over the situation in which they find themselves in (especially the three decades of war), a love of their homeland, jokes, and the ancient caravan songs that have been handed down generation after generation.
I Am The Beggar Of The World: Landays From Contemporary Afghanistan is an eye-opening book of poetry that gives Westerners a glimpse into the clandestine lives of the Pashtun women. While it does highlight the differences between the East and the West, it also shows how we’re more similar than we think.
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If you’re tired of the same old poems about love, life, and other matters, then why not rejuvenate your senses and indulge your soul with Walid Taher’s A Bit of Air, which is part of the Emerging Voices From the Middle East series.
A Bit of Air is written in both English and Arabic and is translated by Anita Husen. This book of poetry is unique not only for its bilingual pieces, but also for its beautiful and unusual illustrations. Taher, who is a political cartoonist and a children’s author and illustrator, hails from Egypt and decided to create a poetry collection for adults that seamlessly blended both visual art, the written word, and even architecture.
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