Her hands planted the rootless sprig

Four poems by Afghan poet Nadia Anjuman, translated from Dari by Diana Arterian and Marina Omar.

Nadia Anjuman’s poetry startles. When considered in conjunction with the knowledge of her young age, it provokes something deeper, less easily pinned down. Her poems are in turns playful, hopeful, devout, despondent. She leans on imagery of the garden and the stars, as well as the body. Despite the difficulty of her life and the content of the poems, one of her most remarkable and consistent habits is her hopefulness. Many of Anjuman’s pieces show her coaxing herself into optimism and rationality.

As a teenager in Herat, Nadia Anjuman attended the Golden Needle School. Under the guise of practicing needlepoint (a pastime approved by the Taliban government), a group of women gathered to meet and discuss literature with local professors. In 2001, with Afghanistan’s liberation from the Taliban, Anjuman began attending Herat University and soon published a book of poetry entitled Gul-e-dodi (Dark Flower). In Gul-e-dodi, Anjuman portrayed the difficult realities of her life and thus her generation of Afghani women, those with few rights who had been raised during the reign of a violent and oppressive governmental power. Her readership was not limited to Afghanistan—Gul-e-dodi found readers in Iran, Pakistan, and beyond. As a result of her writing, Anjuman was awarded scholarships and fellowships. She continued to write poetry despite the objections of her husband and his family, and she was set to publish a second volume of poetry in 2006 entitled Yek Sàbad Délhoreh (An Abundance of Worry).

Anjuman was killed in November of 2005 at the age of twenty-five. While the particulars of her death remain unclear, it appears that it was the result of a physical struggle between Anjuman and her husband. In 2007, Anjuman’s complete works (entitled Divâne Sorudehâye Nadia Anjoman: The Book of Poems of Nadia Anjuman) were published by the Iranian Burnt Books Foundation. Gul-e-dodi has been reprinted three times and sold over three thousand copies. As I continue to work on translating Anjuman’s poems—sending them out for publication, applying for grants, talking to people about her—I hope to avoid trapping her in the common tropes of the young genius, the dead woman writer, and/or the oppressed Afghani woman. The details of her life do not eclipse the brilliance of her verse.

—Diana Arterian


by Nadia Anjuman



by Nadia Anjuman

One day my thoughts, instead of a chill

will bring fireworks

One day my eyes will be wide open

such that

in seeing the shrunken leaves of the ocean, they continue flowing

One day my hands will become weavers

and upon life’s wasteland of a body

spin a gown with wheat and flowers


One day a lullaby

will bring sleep to the weary eyes of homeless children

One day I will sing praise

to the spirit of fire

with soothing songs of rain

On that day

I will write a rich and exalting poem

with the sweetness of a tree’s fruit and the beauty of the moon


Sarataan 1380 / Summer 2001

translated from Dari by Diana Arterian & Marina Omar

تا بیکران خالی

by Nadia Anjuman


Eternal Pit

by Nadia Anjuman

Once she was filled with the familiar

Her hands planted the rootless sprig

with intuition—

so it would grow


Once, in the bright spring of her mind

ran many great thoughts


Once, at times

her hand tamed the trees


Once even her guts were obedient

perhaps they feared her power


But today

her hands are wasted and idle

her eyes burnt sockets

her bright thoughts are buried in a swamp



She distrusts even her feet

They defy her

taking her where she doesn’t want to go


She sits in a corner of quiet

lost in a sea of darkness

emptied of the thought of time


eternal pit


Sawr 1380Spring 2001

translated from Dari by Diana Arterian & Marina Omar


by Nadia Anjuman



by Nadia Anjuman

How sincere, how pure

You, with such faith in your blossoming

ready in your chamber of patience 

Spring did not come

and you with your airy dreams

only smiled

and looked with your heart toward the future

But sadly

spring never stirred within

and luck didn’t smile on you

and when you found love

the harsh trial of that storm

plucked your bud of hope and

      and you snapped before opening


Asad 1380 / Summer 2001

translated from Dari by Diana Arterian & Marina Omar

ناز دخترانه

by Nadia Anjuman


Girlish Heart

by Nadia Anjuman


Each morning my heart is restless –

it longs for night’s solitude

becomes weary and joyless

peeved by the day

And yet in the afternoon

it sings for sunrise

When night falls

the branch of my heart’s fantasy grows

innocent of itself

Facing the sky

it flies upward, infinitely

(If my hand reached the moon

If the night bought my relief from a star

If the sun did not rise…

I would cover the city of night with lights

to gaze forever, star-drunk…)

Oh, my dreaming heart

you drown my days

in fantasy

How long will this old woman of a heart

move like a girl?


Swar 1379 / Spring 2000


translated from Dari by Diana Arterian & Marina Omar