Celebrating ‘The Poetry of the Taliban’

In case you missed it, a literary masterwork was published last summer by the avant garde revolutionaries at Columbia University Press–a book entitled The Poetry of the Taliban.

Here’s a sample from this illustrious volume, a poem entitled “Homeland,” written by one Shin Gul Aajiz:

My dear homeland is burningbut I am watching.Its soil and deserts are destroyed,I am watching.This is cruel, O my creator!Build the homeland!Afghans are leaving, I am watching.I don’t know who has plottedagainst our freedom.My Afghan brother is crying,I am watching.Shin Gul has criedwith lukewarm tears.Blood streams from the heart,I am watching.

If you’re a member of the Taliban, I assume it’s hard to figure out who is “plotting against your freedom” because their aren’t many mirrors in the caves of Kandahar.

For an eviscerating review of this book, check out the article by Emily Schrader of Tel Aviv University at The College Fix.

But really–as “blood streams from the heart,” who is the author of this poem watching? And whose blood? And whose heart?

More importantly, is there any such thing as “too trashy for Columbia University Press?”

  1. Group Captain Mandrake

    Well, I never thought that Douglas Adams would be wrong but  this is the worst poetry in the universe.  It’s worse than that of the Vogons, the Azgoths of Kria and even Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings.

  2. flownover

    putty putty putty

    Thinking of specific Columbia alum who might appreciate….. humm?

  3. Fricosis Guy

    I fixed some of the translation…

    Come Mr. Taliban, Taliban in burkas, Daylight comes and he runs for home. Come Mr. Taliban, Taliban in burkas, Daylight comes and he runs for home.

    NATO… He prays NA-Ay-Ay-Ay-TO…

  4. She

    Nathan Harden: If you’re a member of the Taliban, I assume it’s hard to figure out who is “plotting against your freedom” because their aren’t many mirrors in the caves of Kandahar.

    Lovely.  Worthy of Dave Carter.

    There is no higher praise on Ricochet.

  5. Pseudodionysius

    Shin Gul has cried with lukewarm tears.

    I thought for a minute you typed Ras al Ghul in the bat caves of Gothamafghanistan. I don’t mean to Bore Ya With The Torah.

  6. Matthew K. Tabor

    Emily did a great job with this. I appreciate these personal bits — I’m listening to Kenneth Branagh bring Goebbel’s journal entries to life as I type this. On a scholarly level this is ridiculous, but there’s tremendous value to the opposition. Thanks, Columbia!

    As for the question of whether anything is too cruddy for their press — yes. If it doesn’t measure up to those most-stringent requirements of the CUP, then it’s tweaked to be educational and comes out of Teachers College Press instead.

  7. Nathan Harden
    C

    I love the poetic contributions on this page. We should write our own collection of Taliban-themed poetry, right here on the comment board.

    Taliban says roses are blue,

    Taliban says violets are red,

    If you disagree,

    We kill you dead.

  8. Neolibertarian

    Like our own culture, the Pashtuns can be quite civilized, but at the same time extraordinarily violent and utterly barbaric. While I can detest much about the Taliban, I certainly greatly admire their fathers’ resistance to the Soviet Coup and Military Occupation back in the 1980s.

    They are most likely a people without a future…for very, very good reasons. But not because of their poetry.

    Here’s some sample poetry from America; one of the best selling songs of 2012 which earned many $ millions:

    (Ho!) (Hey!) (Ho!) (Hey!) (Ho!) I’ve been trying to do it right (Hey!) I’ve been living a lonely life (Ho!) I’ve been sleeping here instead (Hey!) I’ve been sleeping in my bed, (Ho!) sleeping in my bed (Hey!) (Ho!) (Ho!) So show me family (Hey!) All the blood that I would bleed (Ho!) I don’t know where I belong (Hey!) I don’t know where I went wrong (Ho!) But I can write a song (Hey!) 1, 2, 3 I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweet (Ho!)

     —Written and performed by the Lumineers

  9. Neolibertarian

    If Columbia University Press published the Taliban poetry in only an English translation, the editors were obviously engaging in a futile exercise.

    I’ve lost most of my references on this subject, but I know that Islamic poetry throughout the Middle East has a very different structure and cultural meaning than it has in the West. For example, Arabic and Pashto poetry is usually arranged in couplets, and often based on monorhyme.

    Arabic, for instance, only has two vowels. Mr. Sajak can explain how awkward it would be to attempt Wheel of Fortune on Baghdad Channel 6–buying a vowel would be pointless. This lingual idiosyncrasy can also shape poetry in a way someone brought up in the Romance Languages would find too simple and pedestrian.

    What follows is some ancient traditional Pasho Poetry, each couplet followed by the English translation:

  10. Neolibertarian
    Da Maghul da para maa toore wahale Pushtano ba raa ta kre dere kanzale

    “I fought for the Moghals with my sword and the Pashtoons used to abuse me for this.”

    Ka wrakzee dee ka Bangash ao ka Yousaf dee Dvee hama zama da taigh pa ta’asaf dee

    “Whether it is the Orakzais, Bangash or Yousafzais, they all are lamenting the fact that my sword is not on their side”

    Pushtana me pa zargono dee wajalee Pa saroono ba ye khra ghwaya lwashalee

    ” I have killed thousands of Pashtoons, so much so that the animals used to walk over their dead bodies”

    [...]

    Ka Maghul sara zama da zra ikhlaas wai Khudai khabar de ka Pushtoon zama na Khlaas wai

    “Had I been loyal to the Moghals, God knows if any Pashtoon could have been safe from my sword”

    Nan da waaro Pushtano pa nang walaar yam Daa che hase pa har dar har drang walaar yam

    ” I now stand for the honour of all Pashtoons, which takes me from house to house to beg for their help and unity”

    You get the idea. Translations aren’t for poetry. The meaning gets lost. But poetic sounds can traverse the languages.