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D.C. Afghan Cabdrivers' Poetry Conflict
July 21, 2006 1:51 PM   Subscribe

There aren't many places in the United States that can count poetry societies run by Afghan cab drivers. Washington has two. And they don't like each other.
posted by jason's_planet (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Years ago, in Life in Hell, Matthew Groening said that the best way toannoy a poet is to be another poet.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:04 PM on July 21, 2006


To annoy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:04 PM on July 21, 2006


Awesome post, thank you.
posted by Falconetti at 2:07 PM on July 21, 2006


This is good. I wish my city had rivalrous poetic factions, aside from the occasional cringe-y freestyling contest...
posted by everichon at 2:09 PM on July 21, 2006


Q: What do you get when you put 2 anarchists in a room?
A: Three splinter groups
posted by jcruelty at 2:20 PM on July 21, 2006


Great story, but does it seem to anyone else like it was truncated? Felt like a few paragraphs were missing at the end.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:25 PM on July 21, 2006


Excellent link, excellently written post.
posted by gsteff at 2:31 PM on July 21, 2006


I can't find the link at the moment; but a year or two ago, the New York Times published a similar article about some bitter feud that was apparently being waged between two chess shops in New York City.
posted by cribcage at 2:44 PM on July 21, 2006


Good stuff.

Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese said '...does it seem to anyone else like it was truncated? Felt like a few paragraphs were missing at the end.'

Yeah, it certainly ends abruptly - I spent a while looking for a link to the rest of the piece.
posted by jack_mo at 2:48 PM on July 21, 2006


does it seem to anyone else like it was truncated?

No, I thought it felt entirely complete. But then I may not the best judge, since I
posted by freebird at 3:06 PM on July 21, 2006 [2 favorites]


cribcage, here’s the rival chess shops story.
posted by hilker at 3:22 PM on July 21, 2006


That's amazing and interesting. Thanks for the link.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:58 PM on July 21, 2006


Splitters.
posted by modernerd at 4:43 PM on July 21, 2006


Here's a better link to the story with the full text, no missing paragraphs.

jason's_planet, Very inspiring story with a rugged edge. Lifts my spirits thinking about it. How beautiful in the face of everything for poetry to be meaningful to people who have faced such staggering devastation to their country in the last 27 years. Not only that but when many Afghanis came to the USA they were put in detention prisons and struggled to be freed refugees here.

It has to be a painful rivalry for the man who started the first poetry meeting and yet maybe a challenge to make his second one of finer calber.

Here's a little more info about Afghani poets of the past and present, biographies of poets, in English.

A selection of Afghani poems.

Afghani poetic music, called ghazals.
posted by nickyskye at 4:55 PM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


And, of course, there's the previously-discussed tale of the last two Jews in Afghanistan.
posted by mhum at 5:00 PM on July 21, 2006


Great story and post. But I have to quibble with this:

Poetry has deep roots in Afghan culture; the art form began more than 1,000 years ago in the ancient cities of Central Asia.

Bullshit. Afghan poetry is an offshoot of Persian poetry, which began a lot earlier than a thousand years ago and not in Central Asia. This obsession with modern countries destroys any sense of history; there wasn't an Afghanistan a thousand years ago—there were only cities (Balkh, Herat, etc.) with nomadic tribes in between, just like most of the Middle East. Similarly, the Soviets created "ancient traditions" for their artificial puppet republics (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, etc.), appropriating medieval Persian poets who happened to live in, say, Bukhara and dubbing them "Tajik poets." Bah, humbug.
posted by languagehat at 5:16 PM on July 21, 2006


(Sorry, that should have been "Uzbek poets" for Bukhara, which the Soviets took away from the Tajiks and gave to Uzbekistan. Divide and conquer and all that.)
posted by languagehat at 5:17 PM on July 21, 2006


Look languagehat, if you're going to bring that Abdul Qadir Bedil highbrow Dervish nonsense in here with you, my Sufi buddies and I are going to, by the grace of God, meet you at the Masonic lodge and kick your ass!
Well, we would, we're we not pacifists
...still - Grrrr! I'm so angry!
(I enjoy Rumi m'self)

Indeed a bizarre tale.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:55 PM on July 21, 2006


Here's a better link to the story with the full text, no missing paragraphs.

D'Oh! I saw that link but I somehow thought it would be more appropriate to link to an Afghan-focused website. Political correctness got the better of me. Thanks for correcting my error.

Lifts my spirits thinking about it. How beautiful in the face of everything for poetry to be meaningful to people who have faced such staggering devastation to their country in the last 27 years.

Yeah. It lifted mine too. What impressed me most was that they escaped the political violence but found themselves facing a whole new set of struggles; all of them deserve a huge amount of praise for maintaing this cultural tradition, a tradition not valued or understood by the overwhelming majority of people around them, while trying to survive in a new country.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
posted by jason's_planet at 11:26 PM on July 21, 2006


Oddly enough, according to the article "the two groups meet in the same Masonic lodge in Springfield".

Come for the poetry, stay for world domination!
posted by sour cream at 5:29 AM on July 22, 2006


I remember listening to the BBC World Service on Sept. 9th or the 10th as a the last reporter to interview Ahmed Shah Massoud recounted how they'd talked extensively about Persian poetry and how Massoud's dream was to retire so that he could study it full-time.

Poetry seems very important round those parts. I remember reading an article that stated that the most popular show on Iranian TV was about explicating poetry.
posted by Kattullus at 11:23 AM on July 22, 2006


About an hour after the original post here, my Afghani DC cab driver offered me double or nothing fare if I could guess his national origin (three guesses). I didn't accept the wager, but correctly guessed he was from one of the 'stans. If I'd seen this post first, it'd probably be fresh on my mind and maybe I could have won a few bucks.
posted by exogenous at 2:12 PM on July 22, 2006


exogenous, What fun! I did accept the wager and won a free cab ride once when I guessed correctly that the driver was Turkish. After many a conversation with cabbies here in NYC it seems most are fed up with Americans generally having no clue where their country is or any idea about their culture.

Once I met the former Afghani Minister for Agriculture, now a NYC cabbie, who said when the Russians took over, all he was able to leave the country with was his dog. aww :(
Another cabbie was the grandson of Kwame_Nkrumah (the Abraham Lincoln of Ghana).

Derail sort of: The best movie about cabbies around the world and one of the funniest movies ever is Night On Earth. There could easily be a delightful sequel with Afghani taxi poets.
posted by nickyskye at 8:11 PM on July 23, 2006


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