Last updated: 21 january, 2011 - 14:17 GMT

Art and Culture

Lost Voices of Afghanistan

An Afghan woman and boy. Getty

To play this content JavaScript must be turned on and the latest Flash player installed.

Play in either Real OR Windows Media players

When the BBC's War correspondent Jonathan Charles made an appeal for Afghan civilians to send in their war poetry, little did he anticipate the flood of writing it would inspire.

Here, he explores a selection of those poems and interviews the authors.

The writers have many stories to tell which have inspired haunting poetry. Verse has, for some, become the best way of expressing not only the sights and sounds of the war, but the emotions.

This is poetry of witness, of anger, propaganda, and it's a catharsis.

While Jonathan was interviewing one poet, the writer suddenly revealed that he had been the finance minister of Afghanistan in the 1970s and later lived under house arrest. He has turned away from politics and is now writing poetry.

Most shockingly of all, Jonathan talks to a woman now in exile in Canada who witnessed a couple trying to sell two of their children to feed the rest of their family. Her powerful poem The Queen of the World sees her imagining having the power to stop such awful events.

With the back-drop of a great poetry tradition in the area, there is an explosion of new poetry in Afghanistan.

In each state, we hear that poetry reading evenings are flourishing.

There is even a story of British troops transporting people to these events and guarding them, while inside the poets recite angry verse about the visiting soldiers.

First broadcast on 21 January, 2011





BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.