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'Poetry of the Taliban' – will it find an audience in the US?

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Tom A. Peter

(Read caption) Editor Alex Strick van Linschoten says Westerners who have a knee-jerk reaction to a book of poetry by the Taliban may be surprised how many of the pieces address topics like writing, flowers, and religion.

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Ask most Americans to describe the Taliban – the militant Pashtun tribesmen who once ruled Afghanistan – and "poetic" probably won't be an adjective you'll hear frequently employed. But that's exactly the point of publishing an English edition of poetry by the group, says Alex Strick van Linschoten, one of the editors of the newly released US edition of "Poetry of the Taliban." "Just like our soldiers have feelings and emotions, the Talibs do as well," he says.

Monitor correspondent Tom A. Peter recently spoke with van Linschoten about the book and his decision to publish it.

Q: How did you get the idea for this book?

A: We were running an organization to give voices to the debate and discussion happening in Afghanistan. As part of that project, we were monitoring the Taliban website and we saw that there were these Taliban poems in a very prominent location on the website. We started to have them translated because I was curious. We just kept on doing it even after our project had finished. Then, about a year and a half ago, we mentioned to our publisher that we had these 300 to 350 Taliban poems, and he said, "Let’s publish them."

Q: What first stood out to you about the poems?

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