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‘Secret poetry’ of Afghan women revealed in new book

The book is a compilation of subversive, two-line verses by Afghan women

Published: Updated:

A book of compiled subversive poetry from Afghan women was released earlier this month.

The poems, which known as landays, are in traditional two-line verse form, and are seen as a simple form of expression for Afghan women in a society which limits their freedom.

One landay paints a portrait of a women mistakenly killed by her foreign suitor:

“My lover is fair as an American soldier can be.

To him I looked dark as a Talib, so he martyred me.

Another is on the political moves of Afghanisan’s president:

“Hamid Karzai sent our sons to Iran

and made them slaves to heroin.

The book’s title comes from another of its verses:

“In my dream, I am the president.

When I wake, I am the beggar of the world.”

The verses provide “a kind of ethnographic record of tensions and conflicts” in Afghan society, U.S. news site Daily Beast contributor Daniel Bosch wrote in a review of the book.

The book includes photographs taken in Afghanistan by Seamus Murphy, while the landays are translated and compiled by Eliza Griswold.

Based on a 2012 article for the New York Times about Afghan women’s poetry, Griswold decided to take the project further, according to U.S.-based online magazine Slate.

Compiling the volume was a painstaking process, with Griswold visiting refugee camps and homes in search of the verses, while Murphy traveled to Afghanistan twice to photograph daily life in the country.