The Green Tribe of Hope: Afghanistan’s Poet Partaw Naderi

Several years ago I was researching an article for Newsweek on the resurgence of poetry in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Although Iraq subsequently pushed the article off that magazine’s pages, and I had to endure the anti-American sermons of smug Norwegian do-gooders, one good thing came out of the experience. I got to know one of Afghanistan’s most prominent contemporary poets, Partaw Naderi.

Partaw, a poet, the president of Afghanistan’s PEN chapter and editor of the Afghan Civil Society Forum‘s magazine, Jamea-e-madani, recently spent several months, starting in September, at the University of Iowa in its International Writers Program. They were lucky to get him. He has a mix of imagination, empathy, dreaminess, faith, hard-nosedness and reason that make for excellent excellent poets.


Below I’ve posted Partaw’s part of the email conversation we’ve had over the past several months interspersed with English translations (some by Sarah Maguire and Yama Yari) of Partaw’s poems.

(The line breaks, apparently, are impossible to preserve for someone without an advanced degree in large number theory and a minor in cryptography but I’ve enclosed links to other sources for the poems.)

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive interview of Partaw or biography, just an impression, a poetic one, to give you a sense of the man. Of Partaw’s emails I have only edited the typos. I think the way the man speaks in English is more poetic than what I’d wind up with were I to “correct” his language.


Hope you are doing well. This is Partaw Naderi emailing you from Iowa City. I’m here since the beginning of September. I have been selected from Afghanistan to attend an International Writing Program 2006. I wish you could remember me, because it is a long time we have not any emailing connection.

Yesterday, leaning on my cane,

I returned from the trees’ cremation.

Today, I search the ashes

for my lost, homeless phoenix.

Perhaps it was you who shadowed me,

perhaps it was only my shadow.

Even though the lucky men in my land

lack stars in the heavens, lack shadows on the earth

they welcome any stars

that grace their devastated sky.

O, my friend, my only friend,

turn your anguish into constellations!


Iowa is a calm and green city. Exactly I like such as city. It looks me like Oxford, a city of university. Our hotel house is located in the campus.

International Writing Program is a three months program and we will stay here up to November 22. There are more than twenty writers and poets from different countries. On 28 of September I will have a reading and a presentation about the modern poetry of Afghanistan for the retired professors at the senior college.

Without any diplomatic words, friendly, I want to say if the situation continue like this I’m not so optimistic about the future of Afghanistan. Taliban and Al-Qaida, such as a passed winter dragon, is getting dangerous day by day. Approximately there are one or two suicide bombing in Kabul city every week. The question is this how long international coalition will stay and fight against terrorism in Afghanistan? Afghanistan Government should have the important responsibility, but it is full of corruption, such as a corrupt government it itself make the situation worse. This government is such as a groom that can’t love with his bride. In other hand, however, Pakistan is a member of International Coalition against terrorism, but Pakistan government also trying to pick up it benefit from the situation. Pakistan never want a strong government in Afghanistan. Pakistan laughing with Afghan government and twinkle to Taliban triumphantly. Pakistan religious school (madrasa) is still producing fighters as a fabric and sending to Afghanistan.

Sorry dear Curt for these disappointment sentences, but I understanding like this. Maybe I’m not right. Anyhow, future belong to God, just I afraid if the black despotic regime be back and that time maybe a poet will recite again:

come and see the blood on the street
come and see the blood on the street
come and see the blood on the street


Here every thing is well, just the reports which I have received from Afghanistan suffering me. It looks now there is a big question mark against the future of the country.

Last week I have a reading and I have received invitation from different college for poetry reading. I will be in Indiana university for a reading and talking some thing about the resistance poetry and post-Taliban literature.

My mother was from the green tribe of grace

she spoke the language of the heavenly ones

she wore a silky scarfof faith

her heart resembled God’s throne –

and was as large as the Divine truth.

I could hear God’s voice from the heartbeats

andno one knew that God was in our house

and that the sun would rise along with

voice of my mother.

My mother was from the green tribe of grace

Whenever she approached me

I could see rays of light

In her little footprints

I could see the green, heavenly fields

And I would pick from their trees the fruits of mirth.


Hope you are doing well. I’m still in Iowa City, however 2006 International Writing Program was ended on November 22. All writers have gone to their countries. I’m here because I havereceived different invitation from different colleges for poetry reading and presentation some thing about Afghanistan. We were for four days in Washington and three days in New York. I have a poetry reading in Congress library.


I was back to Iowa on November 23. From November 4-8, I was in Indiana and had reading and a panel about Afghanistan politic poetry.

It’s well past midnight

I should get up to pray

The mirrors of my honesty

have long been filmed with dust

I should get up

I still have time

My hands can yet discern

a jug of water from a jug of wine

as time’s wheeled chariot

hurtles down the slope of my life

Perhaps tomorrow

the poisonous arrows aimed at me

will hunt down my eyes

two speckled birds startled into flight

Perhaps tomorrow

my children

will grow old

awaiting my return


More of Partaw Naderi’s poetry in available here. For a bibliography of Partaw Naderi click here.

Published by Curt

I am a poet and journalist and so on amber so forth in rows magnet.

One thought on “The Green Tribe of Hope: Afghanistan’s Poet Partaw Naderi

  1. Ba salamo ehteram khedmate shuma
    Man suraia hastam az dubai
    ma ba unwane yak afghan ba shuma(shakhsiyate barjesta)eftekhar mekunam
    ba omide kamyabi wa muwaffaqiyathaye har che beshtare shuma

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: