I Am the Beggar of the World

Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan

Women in Afghanistan have been tweeting for centuries.

“My darling you’re just like America;
You’re guilty; I apologize.”

Mouth to mouth, ear to ear, illiterate rural women have traded these biting, two-line poems called landays since 3500 B.C. In a new book, I am the Beggar of the World, filmmaker and photographer Seamus Murphy and poet and journalist Eliza Griswold, set out for Afghanistan to collect a contemporary collection of these more than thousand year old poems.

They were following the story of a young Afghan poet set herself on fire because she wasn't allowed to write poetry. She called herself Muska which means smile. She wrote in secret and called in to a poetry hotline to read her poems aloud each week...until her brothers found her poems, ripped up her notebooks and beat her badly. When they forbid her from writing, Muska determined to kill herself. Suicide, like writing poetry, became a horrific form of self expression.

The one poem to survive her was a landay:

I call you’re stone. One day you'll look and find I’m gone.

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Dispatches From America

Eliza Griswold is Awarded 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation

Eliza Griswold Wins 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for  I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan, translated from the Pashto (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)   From the Judges’ Citation Darwish wrote that “Every beautiful poem is an act of resistance.” In I Am the Beggar of the World, poet and translator […]

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In this week’s NYT Magazine Eliza Griswold reports, “Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?”

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