Poetry News

HuffPo Features Poetry of the Taliban

By Harriet Staff

Over at the Huffington Post, Faisal Devji helps to put The Poetry of the Taliban in a context wider than poetry-as-propaganda. Devji reads the poetry from this anthology as "Drawing upon the long tradition of Persian or Urdu verse as much as Afghan legend and recent history," and as "an aesthetic form that includes unrequited love, powerful women for whose illicit favors competitors vie, and descriptions of natural beauty among its themes." He goes on:

Even when the large store of poetry produced by the Taliban or their supporters has been noticed, which is more often than not by American military analysts, it tends to be seen merely as propaganda and thus folded back into the instrumentality of politics.

Yet it might well be the autonomy of this aesthetic, or rather its general and broadly human character, that links the Taliban to a wider world outside their ethnic and doctrinal limits. And such a link, of course, is as capable of diluting the movement's integrity as of reinforcing it.

Why should the Taliban's aesthetic be so removed from the opinions and practices that define them both religiously and politically? To account for such a division by invoking ideas about hypocrisy or propaganda is unsatisfactory, because their very possibility would have made Taliban verse controversial and perhaps even impossible.

Instead of which it both draws upon and finds acceptance within a poetic tradition that links the movement to a world outside its own. The Taliban's aesthetic is marked by a consciousness external to their movement, one that moves beyond the limits of ideology to make for a thoroughly individual sense of freedom which can manifest itself in obedience as much as defiance, fidelity to a cause as much as its betrayal.

Read excerpts from the anthology here, and check back with HuffPo during the week for more POTT.

Originally Published: August 23rd, 2012