Last month, I looked at Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy’s work profiling Afghan women poets particular form of poetry, the landay. Their work, as they presented it in an article on Slate, came across as nuanced and reflective (my own words) of Afghan women’s experiences. I was eager to review their book, I Am the Beggar of the World, which is available this month and was kindly provided by the publisher.
Griswold worked with Pashtun women translators to find and present poems that would translate well into English. The book is dedicated to one of her translators, who tragically passed away in Afghanistan in 2012. Seamus Murphy, the photographer, traveled with her to capture photographs along the way. The book is divided into love, grief, and war-related landays translated into English, sometimes alongside Griswold’s commentary about the poem itself.
Murphy photographs scenes from everyday life, mostly candids and a few portraits, that are shown in the book. There are women in some of the pictures, but it doesn’t solely have pictures of women in burqas (or without burqas, for that matter). The decision is refreshing (in contrast, for example, to a 2009 Globe and Mail spread about Afghan women that Krista reviewed for MMW), and serves to emphasize the universal themes that are present throughout the women’s poetry—the themes from the poems both reflect and transcend women’s life experiences. The photographs from Afghan life presented by Murphy beautifully pair with the poems.
The poems themselves represent a variety of subjects: from joyful love to risqué situations, to doomed love and unimaginable sorrow, and even poetry that is historically and politically inclined—they run the gamut of perspectives. I appreciated the range of poems selected in this compilation, as it serves to portray that the women’s poetry—and experiences—aren’t all doom and gloom-related. [Read more...]