UK publisher to release Taliban poetry anthology

Associated Press Modified: May 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm •  Published: May 5, 2012
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LONDON (AP) — A group of researchers are preparing to release an anthology of Taliban poetry, something they hope will help English-speakers better understand the men who've waged more than a decade of war against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.

Many of the works in "Poetry of the Taliban" center on the movement's campaign to expel foreign forces from their territory, with angry battle anthems or mournful dirges devoted to civilian casualties. But others touch on themes of religious devotion, nostalgia, or even love.

Alex Strick van Linschoten, one of the anthology's coeditors, said he had collected the 240-odd poems off the Internet and in the field — not for novelty's sake, "but as a way of understanding who the Taliban are."

"This is one of the big problems of the conflict, which is one of making decisions without properly understanding the circumstances of the people around which these decisions are being made."

Although the Taliban's Web presence is closely monitored, few people showed much interest in the group's poetry. Strick van Linschoten suggested that was a mistake.

"The only way you're going to understand who the Taliban are is reading and understanding what they have to say," he said.

The poems cited in the book's forward run the gamut. There's an ode to the guerrilla fighter:

"I know the black ditches/I always carry a rocket launcher on my shoulder;

"I know the hot trenches/I always ambush the enemy;

"I know war, conflict, and disputes/I will tell the truth even if I am hung on the gallows ..."