CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Roy Harris / Pulitzer's Gold

Natalie Berkowitz / Winealicious

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs


University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri


University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

May 14th, 2012 at 11:30 am

The Poetry of the Taliban

The Poetry of the TalibanThe Poetry of the Taliban, edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn and due out in July is already garnering a lot of discussion both positive and negative.

Richard Kemp, a former commander of British troops in Afghanistan criticized the book in The Guardian, cautioning readers against “being taken in by a lot of self-justifying propaganda”.

However, Michael Dwyer, managing director of Hurst & Co., the British publisher of The Poetry of the Taliban, views the book as an important part of their list of books focusing on Afghanistan: “All these books, including Poetry of the Taliban, contribute to our knowledge of Afghanistan and the vicissitudes endured by its people in recent decades.””

In the New York Times blog At War, C. J. Chivers argues that the book Reading The Poetry of the Taliban as a way of better understanding the Taliban and Afghanistan:

Whatever the current controversy, “Poetry of the Taliban” serves as a martial and social artifact from a broken land. Its poems are variously political and pastoral, one moment enraged and the next heavy with sorrow … They capture ambitions, loneliness, resolve and fear. Many passages crudely mock the West. Others sketch the Taliban’s foes in harsh but lyrical caricature, including a passage in “Death is a Gift” that acidly describes Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, as among “those who have one mouth but utter fifty different words and have fifty different thoughts/Like Karzai; I will not behave like a juggler.”

In yesterday’s New York Times , Faisal Devji, a fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and the author of the preface for the “Poetry of the Taliban,” also views the poems as an important way to understand the Taliban mindset and Afghan culture. Poetry, he writes, has played an important part in Muslim culture and in a variety of movements and struggles. In assessing the importance of Taliban poetry, Devji claims:

These poems are not merely propagandistic; they move beyond the hard politics of the Taliban to form a bridge to the world outside the movement. And the rest of the world would do well to pay attention, because their ideals are more likely than any Taliban communiqué to survive the insurgency and to play a role in the remaking of Afghanistan. These poets criticize the idea of human rights that coalition forces are supposedly fighting to protect in their country. Instead, they voice notions of humanity that are linked to private duties like generosity, compassion and, indeed, nonviolence.

In his op-ed he includes a poem by Qari Yousuf Ahmadi on the hypocrisy of humanitarian intervention:

The cloaked magician wanders like a beggar,
Trying to find some more forces to kill me.
The green parrots of the United Nations are mute;
Those who talk of human rights have sealed their mouths shut.

Devji concludes by arguing, “By excluding the aesthetic dimension from our analyses of militant texts like those recovered from Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani lair, we miss a crucial opportunity to confront the humanity of their authors.”

1 Comment

  1. Mystic moments: Taliban poetry and more | Call of the Siren says:

    [...] What’s the purpose of poetry? A news story made me think about that question again. It also made me take a fairly recent book down from my shelf that I haven’t looked at in a while, Poetry of the Taliban, edited by Alex Strick Van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn (Columbia University Press). [...]

Post a comment