New Writing

Zohra SaedCo-ordinated by Zohra Saed

Introduction: Poetry is one of the strongest forces of Afghan culture.  We learn our traditions, our manners, and our religion through poetry.  The folklorist Margaret Mills called Afghanistan, “The most literary illiterate society.”  While the majority of our grandmothers could not read or write, they learned classical and modern Dari poetry through the rich oral tradition and passed it down to their children.  Our kitchen was always buzzing with gossip and poetry, religion and fairytales, philosophy and recipes.  For Afghans, poetry belongs to the average person and so in this collection you won’t see any professional poets.  Instead you have housewives, students, scholars, and doctors writing poetry.  Many of these poets have learned English as a second language, yet joyfully they experiment with their adopted language.   Afghan women’s poetry is about displacement, healing, and rebuilding.  As a result the poetry is fragmented.  Dari words float within the English lines.   The poetry is haunted with longing and gazing out from windows, which are portholes back to some sliver of Afghanistan. Afghan women’s poetry is also hopeful, promising to return to heal the war-torn land and within these promises one can sense the guilt of leaving the others behind.  If women are the true chroniclers of war, since it is we who survive, then the wars in Afghanistan mark each poem written by these Afghan refugee poets from across the United States and Australia. 

Bio: Zohra Saed was born in Afghanistan and came to the United States with her family in 1980. She received her Masters in Fine Arts in Poetry at Brooklyn College. Saed is a doctoral candidate in the English Literature program at The City University of New York Graduate Center and co-editing with S. Wali Ahmadi and Farhad Azad, “Drop by Drop, We Make a River: Afghan Writings of War, Exile, and Return” a ground breaking Afghan literary anthology written in English, which spans the years between 1978-2002. This collection will be published jointly by Up-Set Press Inc. and Afghan American Peace Corp (forthcoming Winter 2003). Currently, she teaches in the Asian American Studies Program at Hunter College and serves on the Board of Directors for Afghan American Peace Corp.

Artwork by Yasaman Sammander

Lida Abdullah -- “Kuchis,” “Blink”

Zohra Saed -- “What the Scar Revealed,” “Nomad's Market: Flushing Queens,” “Voices: Archive of Spines”

Fatana Jahangir Ahrary -- “Peace,” “Promise”

Sahar Muradi -- “Exile, or my father's elbow,” “Pushing”

Sara Hakeem -- “Faith('s) Lies in Worship”

Zaheda Ghani -- “Afghanistan”

Shakila Naseer -- “An Oath,” “Thirst”

Fevziye Rahgozar Barlas -- “My World,” “Waiting for a Miracle,” “I am nature,” “I am in Love”

Donia Gobar -- “Ariana,” “Do You Know Me?”

Shekaiba Wakili -- Artwork

Donna Yasaman Sammander -- Artwork

table of contents