Smoke Blooms: Poems inspired by Nadia Anjuman
Nadia Anjuman (1980-2005) was born and lived in the city of Herat, Afghanistan. She showed poetic inclinations from a young age, and was encouraged by her family, but in 1995 the city was taken by the Taliban, who bore very little respect for the education of women, and culture and literature in general. Their arrival in the city forced many women scholars and artists into hiding.
Nadia was fourteen or fifteen at this time, and she and a group of friends formed ‘the Golden Needle’ a group at which they would meet under the guise of learning to sew, but were secretly studying literature and learning to write. They met at the house of Herat University professor Ustad Rayhab. The whole operation was dangerous – if caught there would have been dire consequences, but they continued anyway.
This first poem is a response to this group, and the idea of poetry as a quiet resistance; that even carrying a line of it with us in our heads is an act of defiance. I believe that poetry and the act of writing can help us maintain the hope we need to keep going, giving us a little bit of power in situations where we are powerless. I used a line from Nima Yooshij / Yushij, as he is considered to be the father of Persian poetry, and would have been one of the poets studied by the Golden Needle group. In learning about Nadia’s life and work I have come across many new poets and poems whose work I am intrigued by and still investigating.
The Golden Needle
with a line from My House is Cloudy by Nima Yooshij
My bright days that slipped through my fingers
whispers the woman in the market, checking the onions
to see if they’re firm. My bright days that slipped
through my fingers, she taps on the pavement
as she walks home, as a soldier in dark clothes
waits for another on a street corner
and neither of them hear what her feet are saying.
My bright days, she says to herself as she cooks
and no-one overhears.