Partaw Naderi

Modern Poetry and Criticism in Afghanistan

05.01.2011 - 23:30

Initial tendency to modernism in poetry can be explored in 4th and 5th decades of the 20th century in Afghanistan. Poets such as: Khalillulah Khalili, Yosuf Aina, Zia Qarizada, Bashir Herawi, Fateh Mohammad Muntazir, Ibrahim Safa, Abdul Hakim Ziaiy, Shafi Rahguzar, Reza Mayel Herawi, Habibullah Behjat, and Mohammad Rahim Elham are among the first poets who have taken steps towards modernism and breaking the structure in the current poetry in Afghanistan. In other words, the initial experiences of modern poetry refer to this group of poets. Worth mentioning that some of these poets either stopped follow the modern poetry method or completely quit. For example Khalili faced towards quatrain and ode writing. Qarizadeh and Ziayee paid attention to Ghazal writing and Habibullah Behjat did not participate in the press.

Tendency to modern poetry can have different reasons:
• Great poets such as: Mohammad Akbar Shaygan, Rawan Farhadi, Abdul Haq Wala, and Ustan Mohammad Rahim Elham were translating western poetry. In the meantime western poetry translation were entering Afghanistan through Iranian publications. These translations could have opened up a new window in front of Afghan poets.
• Alama Iqbal’s poems had a lot of readers and we can even say that there was a Iqbalism was present at that time.
• Poets and intellectuals who were familiar with Arabic and Turkish were following the literature changes in the Arab and Turk countries. Publishing Ali Asfendiari and Nimayoshich’s poems in the Music magazine was very important. The music magazine not only in Iran, but also in all the Farsi speaking countries including Afghanistan had a great credibility. This kind of poems had definitely affected those young poets who were searching the new method and did not want to follow the classic type of poetry.

Without doubt that tendency to modern poetry was not an event without a root, but constitutionalism movement during Amir Habibullah Khan’s period (1919-1991) had changed the poetry in Afghanistan. But, this difference was a qualitative not structural. Publishing socio-political poets in Saraj-ul-Akhbar and other publication during Amanullah Khan period was showing that constitutionalist movement has differed the poetry in Afghanistan quantitatively, but not structurally.
• Poets during the constitutionalism movement was considering poem as a mean to influence peoples social intellect. Subjects such as: patriotism, liberty, social justice and struggle against colonialism were the main content of the poems of that period. These kinds of poems were illustrative and inviting people for struggle to establish a developed civil society. The poets during the constitutionalism movement did not want express themselves by using the old and repeated issues. They were thinking of new subjects. 

Once Mahmood Tarzi was saying:

Time of poem and poetry has gone
Time of magic and magician has gone

Basically this is presenting the idea that poetry is not a charming work with the words, but it should have a responsibility and task.  Poem of this period is sometime an intellectual clash, when Abdul Hadi Dawi says in address to Amir Habibullah the following poem. In reality he is accept a stage of martyrdom.

It was not bad if there were more knowledge in the country
It was not bad if
Negligence would have been demolished was not bad
It was not bad if your drunk head became alerted

Due to these causes or other causes the tendency to modernism and modern poetry is taking shape in Afghanistan and this tendency is specified in the poetry of the second and third decades in Afghanistan.

The face of modern poetry is becoming more prominent in the sixth decade of the twentieth century.

New and young poets whom we can call them the second wave of Nimayee poets in the country enter the arena. From my point of view this era was continuing up to the middle of the fiftieth decade. Usdad Mohammed Rahim Ilham, Mahmood Farani, Sulaiman Layeq, Bareq Shafiee, Abdul Hai Khaki (Arian Poor), Doctor Suhail, Abdul Hussain Tawfiq, Assadullah Habib, Qayom Qawim, Wasef Bakhtary, Latif Nazemi, Abdul Razaq Royeen, Ali Haidar Lahib, Rafaat Husaini, Berang Kohdamani, Iqbar Rahbar Tokhi, Zuhoorullah Zuhoori, Naser Amiri, Saadat Malook Tabesh, Aref Pazhman, and few others are the representatives of this era.

I have read poems from women poets such as: Huma Tarzi, Sharifa Danesh Zaringar and Shakera Azimi. I do not want to talk about what and whys of these poets, which needs a in turn need a separate discussion. Anyway it was these poets whom not only with their poems, but with their articles in defense of their way against traditionalists broadened the modern poetry in the country. As far as I think Wasef Bakhtary, Latif Nazemi, Royeen, Ali Haidar Lahib, Sulaiman Layeq, and Mahmood Farani could say Nimayee poets more complete than others according to Nima’s recommendation. From this point of view their service to modern poetry in Afghanistan is considerable and appreciative. Mahmood Farani was saying quatrain. Worth mentioning that he was incomparable in saying quatrain.   

Even though there has not been any new poem from Farani after coup d’etat in 1973, his three collections “Poet Dream” , “The last star” , and “Travel in the storm” has a high status in the modern poetry in Afghanistan. However, Ustad Khalillulah Khalili after the initial tendency to modern poetry did not continue, but he said quatrains with beauty and cleverness, from which we can find the shiniest samples of Dari poetry. 

I think these two poet and later Latif Nazimi and Royeen made quatrains more concrete.

At this stage tendency to modern poetry seemed to be with the poets with liberal and left ideas. Some of these poets can be called political and philosophical poets, while other poets associated to right and Islamic ideas continued saying traditional poems and did not change.

A number of right political parties were established in the democracy decade (1963-1973) in Afghanistan. It is hard to find poets without some sort of link to these parties. Some were official members of these parties and some were in a way interested to them. It is better to search the initial sparks of ideological saying during the prime ministry of Shah Mohammad Khan (1941-1953), which changed to flames during the democracy decade. At this point Sawr (1978) coup d’etate draw new boundaries for poets in Afghanistan. From my point of view there were three groups of poets in the country.  

The first group was poets related to the ruling party and devotee of the quisling government, the second poets associated to left ideology, but against the ruling government and the third associated to right ideology and tend to Jihadists. 

In such circumstance especially in eightieth decade modern poetry expanded and new faces entered the arena, who are the third wave of poets in Afghanistan. Shabgir Poladin, Saboorullah Syahsang, Sultanali Sahab, Latif Pedram, Qahar Aasi, Afsar Rahbin, Abdullah Nayebi, Muheb Baresh, Sami Hamed, Ali Shah Rostayar, Puzhohan Gardani, Masood Atrafi, Mirwais Mawj, Lajawardin Shahri, Shuja Khurasani, Aziza Asooda, Ghani Barzin Mehr, Yonus Tughyan, Saleh Mohammad Khaliq, Hazrat Wahrez, Ghulam Haidar Yagana, Qurbanali Hamzi, Assadullah Walwalji, Abbas Khuroshan, and others are among them. Women poets like Laila Kawyan, Karima Wida, Shafiqa Yarqin “Dibaj”, Laila Sarahat, Humaira Neghat, Suraya Wahidi, Khalida Frogh, Farahnaz Hafizi, Najla Agah, Sajida Milad, Nafisa Khushnasib and others said Nimayee poems. Worth mentioning that evaluating their poems in terms of content, social commitment, beauty and poetry prospective is another issue to be discussed, but what we can say at this moment is that we can find the samples of best modern poems among them. Some these poets started saying poems before the communist coup d’etat in 1973, but they became famous during the Democratic  

I should say that some of the poets from the second wave of modern poets were in this period as well such as: Wasef Bakhtary, Latif Nazimi, Royeen. Even though Sulaiman Layeq, Assadullah Habib, and Bareq Shafiee had kept their presence in the eightieth decade poetry and said more poems, politicization had affected their poems that created a big distance between their poems and the readers.

While modern poem was taking gradual steps towards new boundaries, traditional poem was going slowly on the previous path in Afghanistan.


Blank Verse in Afghanistan

Blank Verse and poem without cadence merge in Afghanistan. It is considered the same in Iran. Dr. Reza Brahni an Iranian critic consider this a mistake. He says that it has happened when; Ahmad Shamlo called his modern poems “Blank Verse.” When this issue dragged to the media, calling blank verse to such poems was increased. He also add that Shamlo’s poems whatever it is, it is not blank verse. He says that Blank Verse is rhythmic poems, which have been common in Europe for more than three hundred years. The purpose of mentioning the examples above was to say that Blank Verse in Afghanistan was considered a poem without rhythm. When we talk of blank verse here, it is the poem without any correlation with Nimayee cadences.

Some poets started saying something called belletristic ode. This ode was a kind of poetic prose, which was different from arrhythmic poem. Musai Nehmat, Yousuf Ayna, and Sayed Habibullah Behjat was among those poets. 

Belletristic ode could have been an effort toward saying arrhythmic poem. We may say that this was an entrance to the blank verse or arrhythmic poem.

This could have been because of the translation of poems from the western poets. The translations were basically coming from Iran by Shujauddin Shefa and Hasan Hazarmandi. The translations were a kind of arrhythmic poem.

Once I heard from Wasef Bakhtary that he started blank verse with such an experiment. He was saying “I wrote a belletristic ode, which had poetic style and gave it to Mahmood Farani to publish it in his publication.” He said “Farani made some changes and wrote it like a ladder and publish it under the name of blank verse.”

Later Wasef Bakhtary followed the blank verse with more enthusiasm and we can consider him as first poet who said blank vere.

Rafaat Hussaini is another poet who wrote blank verse.

 “A man who had stone feet” is a great sample of his blank verse.

After that blank verse was expanding in the eightieth decade with poets such as: Latif Pedram, Afsar Rahbin, Qahar Aasi, Laila Sarahat, Shuja Khurasani, Puzhohan Gardani, Abdullah Nayebi, and Suraya Wahidi.

Blank verse has not become a considerable current in Afghanistan yet. We can not even name someone as a representative of blank verse, because if a poet is saying a blank verse today is continuing saying a ballade. Our poets have not shown that belletristic braveness to forget rhythm completely.

Criticism in Afghanistan

Heart  Literary Association was established in 1931. Intellectuals such as: Sarwar Joya, Abdul Ali Shayeq Herawi, Fekri Saljoqi, Alama Sallahudin Saljoqi, Munshi Abdul Karim Ahrari and few others had key role in its establishment.

Later in this year another institution was established in Kabul. Malik-u-Shuara Qari Abdullah, Abdul Ali Mustaghni, Mir Ghulam Mohammad Ghubar, Mohammad Karim Nazihi Jelwa, Sarwar Joya, Sarwar Goya Etemadi, Ahmad Ali Kohzad, and Ghulam Jailani Azami were its first members. Constitutionalist poet, Mohammad Anwar Besmel was the manager of this institution. Worth mentioning that establishment of Heart athenaeum was the initiative of Heart intellectuals, but Kabul athenaeum was an initiative of the government. 

Even though Heart Literary Association was established before Kabul Literary association , but officially started after Kabul.

With the establishment of these two associations  especially with Kabul literary Association efforts had been started in writing new history, literature research, literature history, translation and later criticism in Afghan press. As I think “Baidil Criticism” after “The Poet Thoughts” is a book, which evaluates different aspects of Mirza Abdul Qader Baidil’s poetry.  The book is work of Alama Salahuddin Saljoqi.

From this point of view “Baidil Criticism” is a big and great base for critcism in Afghanistan.

Criticism expanded in Afghan press in the last few decades. In my opinion books such as: Gold in Silver and Story Writing of Reza Brahni, Music of Poem of Shafiee Kadkani, The Art of Story Writing of Ibrahim Younusi, and some other works of Abdul Ali Dastghaib and Mohammad Huqoqi all from Iran had been useful in criticism in Afghanistan.

One can say with responsibility that in the last few decades we can not find any poet or critic who do not refer to Gold in Silver while discussing about what and how of poem. To ignore this, few poets and writer have passed the narrow path of criticism in Afghanistan. As Rahnawar Zaryab under the name of “Nab” publish some criticism. One of his controversial criticisms is the criticism on the work of Iqbal Rahbar Tokhi “Blossoms.” But he later did not continue writing criticism.

Latif Nazimi have considerable writings about the theory of criticism, published in Art magazine. Latif Nazimi also wrote scientific and specific criticisms, which have been broadcasted through “Golden Scale” program of Afghanistan radio and was published in Awaz magazine.

Poya Faryabi has a published work called “Criticism and Memos.” This is the result of his efforts from the 60th -70th decades. Based on this work, Poya is considered among the first poets who paid attention to practical criticism and wrote criticism to some of the modern poets.

Obaidullah Mahak was writing criticism on novels of Spozhmai Zaryab, Qader Muradi, and other writers, which published in “Anis” daily. In my opinion the method Mahak’s work is ……………… Critic wants to enter the personality of a writer with analysis, psychology of the writer and social views. Obaidullah Mahak prepared his criticisms under the name of “Three bouquet of Flower” before the demolition of Kabul printing press due to civil war. 

Halamis wrote criticisms on Dr. Akram Osman and Rahnawar Zaryab’s work and published them in Gharjestan and Zhuwandoon magazines. These criticisms caused serious discussions and reactions in Kabul between intellectuals.

Qayome Qaweem, Bairang Kohdamani, Razeq Royeen, Saboorullah Syahsang, Afsar Rahbeen, Shuja Khurasani, Mirwais Mawj, and Aziz Asooda were involved in criticism besides their other literature efforts.

In my opinion Hussain Fakhry wrote criticisms more than any other writers overseas in Peshawar, Pakistan. He wrote his book “Stories and Viewpoints” under the nick name of Hussain Gulkohi in 1995 in Peshawar.

This book includes studying the work of a number of modern Afghan writers. To say that how much Hussain Fakhry could familiarize the readers in the techniques of writing, initiatives and the character of the story is another issue, which needs a separate discussion. 

We always come up with this question that how Hussain Fakhry could write criticism on his own novels. Whether he has been able look at his work with a neutral critic’s eye regardless of his emotional and mental ties? As far as I know, no writer have been away from this kind of mistakes even if they criticize others work.

Fakhry has also written some criticism on modern poets including Wasef Bakhtary, which have not been successful. I think he should not have written some of these.

I have not seen in any of his works that he has come to a conclusion with regard to quality and innovation of poet’s work after analysis of a work.

Fakhry had a preset mind. He address the poem of each poet with such an instrument and tries to an antitype for those poems, which is usually disappointments.
If we gather, whatever written under the name of criticism in Afghanistan will not be two or so considerable book. This is not the only calamity, but it the calamity will be completed when we realize that criticisms have been written based on relations that reality. Cultural society of Afghanistan is very far from reaching scientific criticism. We should not wait that an honest and clever critic with a prophetic conscience will appear today and put and address everybody’s right.


Resistance Poem in Afghanistan

Whenever there is talk about the resistance poem, this poem of Hanzala Badghisi is comes to my mind.

Even if eminence is in lion’s mouth
Risk to achieve it
Either dignity, respect and esteem
Or a man’s death

This poem is considered one of the first Dari poems.

The land of poetry looses its freedom and Arab dictatorship scourge enter peoples flanks. Poet put death and freedom in front of each other and insist that death in freedom and liberty is several times worthy than life in enslavement.

With this introduction, I would like to say that resistance poet and in general literature and resistance have been existed from the dawn of literature. This is not specific to Dari literature, but it has a universal property. Resistance poem has been parallel to official poem of each nation in the history. Resistance poem is intellectual; however, intellectual is a 20th century terminology. But, with the characteristics known to intellectuals, history has never been without intellectual.

When Hakim Naser Khusraw Balkhy says:

I am the one who never spoiled invaluable pearls of Dari under feed of swine 

He intellectually stands against the history.

I think our Sufi poets have written resistance poems, but they have been more resistance within. Hafiz poetry is a kind of resistance within and resistance in the society.

The poetry of this group is glazing the spirit in one way and summons people’s thoughts towards freedom in another way. How resistance poem as belletristic current did enter the global literature? In other hand, how and where from the terminology of resistance poem entered the global literature?

My finding is that the resistance poem has entered the global literature through the literature of western Arab, especially Algeria and Palestine literature. Moreover, Latin American literature and Vietnam literature might have had a role in globalization of resistance poem.

Resistance poem is like the gravity that scholars discovered later. This means that the history of such poem existed from the beginning of the literature, but the terminology of resistance poem refer to 20th century.

There is also a view that the resistance poem enters a country’s literature while it is being attacked and it is ended after defeat.

Here is to contemplate and say that resistance poem is becoming more prominent at this situation, but its start is never due to a foreign force attack. There was another terminology in Iran, poem of war, which I think it is the resistance poem during the Iraqi attack on Iran.

There is resistance poem in the United States, while it has never been attacked, in Iran even the Iraqis were defeated. The red army is no more in Afghanistan, but there is still resistance poem.

Resistance poem is a 

In relation to resistance poem in the country I faced two different viewpoints. Some says that there was not resistance poem during the occupation. According to their opinion resistance poem can not be under the occupation forces and the government affiliated to them.

They see the poets who remained in the country under the control of Public Democratic Party with doubt and chase them all with the same stick. They say that these poets were salaried by the government; therefore, their work can not be incorporated into resistance poem circle.

The second group thinks totally other way round and says that the resistance poem was a specific movement in Afghanistan those years. 

In my opinion, both these viewpoints have has its flaws. Resistance in any form emerge, where dictatorship exist. The pioneers of Palestine resistance poem such as: Mahmood Darwish, Salem Jebran, Sami Alqasem, Tawfiq Zyad, Yousuf Alkhatib, Nayef Salim, Habib Zaydan, Rashed Hussain, Ussam Alabasi, and few others started such belletristic creations in Palestine and the Palestinian resistance poem entered the global literature.

All these poets did not remain in occupied land, but some of them moved to other Arabic countries and most of them to Egypt and Lebanon and started overseas resistance poetry. 

Palestine resistance poem in Arabic world and resistance poem in occupied land is two strong branches of the same trunk. Or we could say that these two streams flow into one river.

With what we said, I think to disavow the resistance poem during the communist occupation in Afghanistan will not be fair-trade. 

To pass over constitutionalism movement poem, after the mid-sixtieth to bloody coup d’etate of 1973, poem in Afghanistan faced some positive changes in terms of content and form. The poem became more nearer to poets life and found a new language and more attention paid to illustrative aspect of poem. 

Socio-political poem of this period is goal oriented. The poem of struggle and the combat against dictatorship. Some do not like to call the socio-political poem of this period, resistance poem, with the reason that resistance poem is linked to the period when the society is under occupation. But, this kind of poems is included in the circle of resistance poem due to its battle against the government and inviting people in this battle.

I think poets such as: Wasef Bakhtary, Sulaiman Layeq, Razeq Royeen, Assadullah Habib, Ali Haidar Lahib, Bareq Shafiee, Latif Nazimi, Dawood Sarmad, Muztareb Bakhtary and few others made the political and intellectual poem of Afghanistan to reach the top. We can say that they are the resistance poets of their time. Worth mentioning that none of these poets have the same language, imagination and illustration. For example Bareq Shafiee with his less illustrative poems is more famous among the poets. Sometimes in Afghanistan name of the poets have more reputation than their poems, and sometimes their poems more than their names. 

Over 90% of Wasef Bakhtary’s poems, which have been published in the books “…… and Sun never die” and “from the …….till……….” were written during the democracy decade. Bareq Shafiee’s poem collection “Stak” has a lot of fame in those years. “Travel in Storm” of Mahmood Farani was written in those years. Sayed Ismail Balkhy’s poetry was full of soul of battle and self conscious struggle against the ruling mechanism. His poetry is the biggest ever carved in the copestone of history. He who spent years behind the bars of Dehmazang prison, but never submit. 

There might still be his poetry on the walls and doors of chancellorship and Pul-e-Charkhi prisons written by the prisoners. In the years in prison, I read in most of the cells the following poem:

We surrender to doom, so you could survive
Pray for us on our graveyard

In order to pick some of Assadullah Habib’s poems from the view point of diagnostic beauty or his devotional attention on socio political issues, without doubt the date of them revert to the democracy decade. Some of Sulaiman Layeq’s poetry was among the most famous poems of that time.

It is with pity to say that Sulaiman Layeq and Bareq Shafiee ended with the 1978 uprising. Their party took the power and it seemed as if the doors of heaven have been opened to them. Assadullah Habib has also joined the party literature, therefore these three together with Abdullah Naybi, and Dastgir Panjsheri became the leading representatives of government literature during Soviet Occupation.

The poets who were against the ruling government considered reactionary and sometime condign to fusillade. As Ali Haidar Lahib, Dawod Sarmad, Rawnaq Naderi, Sayed Mutaqi Zemni, Sayed Sabet, Sailab Safi and some other poets who fusilladed in Pul-e-Charkhi prisons. May God rest their souls in Peace!
Whatever discussions have been conducted and passed by me so far, our friends call the poetry during the occupation and after the occupation during the puppet government resistance poem. From their viewpoint resistance poetry changed to a belletristic movement in Afghanistan during the occupation. 

Accepting the resistance poem as strong belletristic movement during the occupation seems to be optimistic. Since, this kind of poem has not yet been changed to a poetic movement in Afghanistan.

There has not been any research about the resistance poem of eightieth decade in Afghanistan.

Resistance poems have been written inside Afghanistan and outside the country in Iran and Pakistan. Part of the resistance poem inside the country is related to prison poetry, which has not been researched.

In my opinion, compare to the unstable situation facing Afghanistan during the occupation; poem and in general literature of this period have not been rich, but is also very poor. There was a volcano flaring, but the warmth reflected was like warmth of a candle.  

Despite all these, if we want to research about whatever happened in Afghanistan those years, resistance literature (poem and story) inside and outside the country in Iran and Pakistan would be the bases of this research!

Iowa City
October -2006
Partaw naderi

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Shaida03.09.2012 - 19:00

 Could you please help me to find the biography of Dr.Shafiqa Yarqin? Thanks E.mail:



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