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I Am the Beggar of the World


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About the Author

Eliza Griswold, a Guggenheim fellow, is the author of a collection of poems, Wideawake Field (FSG, 2007) and a nonfiction book, The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam (FSG, 2010), a New York Times bestseller that was awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. She lives in New York City. Seamus Murphy has photographed extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. His photography from Afghanistan, begun in 1994, chronicles the tumultuous life of the Afghan people. A collection of this work, titled A Darkness Visible: Afghanistan, was published in 2008 and was produced as an award-winning film. He has won seven World Press Photo Awards. He lives in London.


"Griswold's translations mark a stunning handling of [landay's] complex 'beauty, bawdiness, and wit.' Flanked by Murphy's photographs, with their striking blend of wartime journalism and human compassion, Griswold's couplets are peppered with brief prose passages in which she delves into cultural and historical traditions that inform the humor and gravity of her translations . . . a collection that may indeed be remembered as a groundbreaking work of translation and poetic journalism." --Publishers Weekly

"Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy have made a book that is necessary reading for anyone who has ever made assumptions from a distance about what a burka-wearing woman might be like, and for anyone who cannot fathom how poetry could get you killed. In other words, this book is a must-read for every U.S. citizen . . . Griswold's and Murphy's work might be a crucial turning point in the education of Americans about the real world--and the place of poetry in it." --Daniel Bosch, The Daily Beast

"The book's greatest strength is the complicated spectrum of voices that it allows these women, whom we wouldn't otherwise know anything about. I Am the Beggar of the World casts Pashtun women as vibrantly self-aware and autonomous . . . Griswold finds a way to present these poems and images in juxtaposition so that they evoke a multiplicity of voices and views, giving an almost democratic quality to the anthology's populace." --Jay Deshpande, The Millions

"*Starred review* From heartbreaking indictments of fathers who sell their daughters into slavery to humorous, techno-savvy posts on a Pashto Landay Facebook page, Griswold's selections illustrate the rich potential of this poetic form, at once contemporary and timeless. Murphy's stunning photographs complement the text perfectly, capturing children at play in refugee camps outside Kabul, smiling U.S. soldiers pointing squirt guns, and armed militants marching through the mountains. A timely, indispensable, and unforgettable poetic documentary." --Diego B ez, Booklist Starred Review

"I Am the Beggar of the World, translated by journalist and poet Eliza Griswold, with photos by Seamus Murphy, collects passionate, polemical, and traditionally secret two-line folk poems by Pashtun women on topics ranging from education, war, and personal autonomy to marriage, faith, loss, and homeland." --Elle

"I Am the Beggar of the World is a great and satisfying work. I applaud Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy. It is an essential look at the women of Afghanistan and the voices of dissent at risk of being suppressed when the American forces withdraw." --Sahera Sharif, Member of Afghanistan's Parliament, founder of nationwide women's literary circle, Mirman Baheer

"The poems in I Am the Beggar of the World cut like a knife--they are short, sharp--and leave you bleeding. They are the most direct voices of the inner life of Afghan women, and prove that these women, despite all hardships, are still standing. These two-liners make the reader feel close to the women that we've seen so often on the screen wandering like blue-clad ghosts on the dusty roadsides. A heart is a heart anywhere in the world." -- sne Seierstad, author of The Bookseller of Kabul

"I Am the Beggar of the World is a revelatory book about Afghanistan, one sure to turn all the stereotypes about the country's women on their heads. The poems, equally art and reportage, are often poignant, more often witty, even pungent. They, along with the accompanying text and photographs, illuminate the beauty of the country and its culture, the sadness of its history, and the humor, the hopes, the bitterness, and even the contradictions its women--no different than women anywhere--carry in their hearts. This is an important book, but to describe it only that way is to neglect how deeply pleasurable it is to read." --Amy Waldman, author of The Submission

"Eliza Griswold brings a poet's sensibility, a folklorist's skills, and a journalist's savvy to these startling and incendiary folk poems by Afghan women, which she has so daringly collected and translated. With its arresting photographs and heartbreaking two-liners, I Am the Beggar of the World enlarges our sense of the work that poetry does in the world." --Edward Hirsch, author of The Living Fire

"This is poetry of a rural tradition that is as world-wise, war-wise and uniquely sophisticated as any collection of writing by women, anywhere." --Carol Muske-Dukes, author of Twin Cities

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