Old Literary Association home to young poets

I’m like the woman who has shaken the cradle with one hand all night

I’m like the woman who has given with the other hand to the two worlds light 

I’m like the woman who is sad, her hands are praying to the sky

Deep pains in her eyes but let it fall like rain given tears to the sky

                  -Mozhgan Faramanesh 

                                                                ***

During my first visit to Herat, in a cold afternoon, I met a group of promising and aspirant young people, who were going from their suburbs to Literary Association of Herat to a regular Wednesday afternoon poetry session. I knew some of them before and took the time to talk with them and ask why they are still going to the 85 year old association.

1Abbas Arifi, a university student, believes that the association is “a familiar and friendly space for the young of both genders to read their poems and stories and listen to others how they reflect.” Also, he adds that an exchange of ideas happens in the session and many issues are being discussed.

“I first encountered to serious discussion on literature in the association, developed new interests, discovered new things. I read there and faced sharp criticism of my work that deepened my understanding.”

Wali Shah Bahra is emphasizing on the significance of association as a known literary group in the region: “Oher provinces can learn from our experiences to make active and sustainable literary groups.”

The literary Association of Herat has three weekly sessions. Every Monday, the session is for reading and criticism of stories, on Wednesday every week, the session is for young poets , every Thursday, it’s for the traditional Bedil Khani, reading poems by Mawlānā Abul-Ma’āni Mirzā Abdul-Qādir Bīdel, also known as Bīdel Dehlavī (1642–1720), who was a famous representative of Persian poetry and Sufism in India.2

Story reading and criticism starts with a flashlight of cultural news/events of the week. Then everyone reports what he/she read last week and explains his/her thoughts about it. If any had written story, he/she would read it and then the criticism starts.

In two sides, both are holding guns

And are adding to the reasons for war

We just start fighting

While we fall prey to another”

                                                                                  -Javeed Nabizada

As Mr. Bahra emphasizes the association always insists on producing new thoughts in all types of works.

Nilofar Niksiyar, who teaches poetry sessions and is a permanent moderator of poetry criticism sessions, said: “We are not just reading poems or stories; we look how words and sentences are combined and what literal and metaphorical meaning each word carries.”

Besides weekly literary sessions, they convene and organize many other events on different occasions and help poets and writers to get their works published.

According to Bahra, 90 percent of members are young people; great majorities are young women and girls. This is significant in a city where the public sphere seems to be more conservative than Kabul or northern Mazar-e Sharif.

The Old Literary Association

The association, which was established in 1930, was the first of its kind in Afghanistan and has undergone many experiences during the course of its history.

 Being an active center for local poets and writers, the association has played a key role in keeping the city’s poetry tradition alive the association, also has published its own magazine. Some members of the association have been and are great writers and poets of their time. 3

However, the association couldn’t walk forward steadily all times. Regime changes sometimes affected its activities. In 1943 the print magazine stopped and the activities of the literary association slowly faded away, writers and poets became dispersed.

Five years later, in 1948, with the help of Abdullah Khan Malikyar, the governor of Herat, and the association resumed its activities under a new name, Herat Literary Club. One year later, on the occasion of 900th memorial of Khawja Abdulla Ansari, the name changed to Ansari Literary Club. Beside printing and publishing of the magazine again, it started more actively than in the past and set up routine literary sessions along with classes teaching English and Russian. And at this time, the same governor encouraged local businessmen to finance the construction of a building for the province’s Literary Club next to the government department of Information and Culture.

***

In two sides, both are holding guns

And are adding to the reasons for war

We just start fighting

While we fall prey to another

                                                      -Javeed Nabizada

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