By: Faramin Mikaeel
Daraf’s Death has just been published and arrived in Kabul. It is a collection of Persian/Dari poems written by Nima Asi, who is living now in Ankara, Turkey, where he immigrated to in 2017, to find meaning to the meaninglessness of life like any other migrants who had already left – or are still leaving – Afghanistan’s insecurity and instability.
Daraf’s Death is Asi’s complicated, shocking debut collection of poetry which, I believe, will leave readers wondering about what the poet’s intention is— each poetry is a collection of apparently simple words which have simply structuralized form, but delivers rather complicated meaning to the reader.
We are so overwhelmed by the wordplays in any poems that we become part of the show in which words play a role searching for something, like Vladmir and Stragon, two main characters in Samuel Becket’s play “Waiting for Godot”, searching for the time to meet Godot, someone that never arrives, keeping us waiting and waiting.
The poems have been written between 2014 and 2020, and convey most of the situation which the writer has been or living in for a while. But, ask yourself, what is the significance of them being written in such a complicated manner? Is it a poet’s deliberate act of conveying things to the reader in such a complicated manner that it questions our knowledge and perception of things, or is it an anecdote to the readers’ pain? Would it be a tale of pain and suffering that an immigrant goes through while living abroad? Before answering those questions, let us first introduce Nima Asi: a 26-years-old poet whose writings date back to 2011, when he began to write his first poems inspired by 20th century Farsi-speaking writers and poets from Iran and Afghanistan, including his uncle, Abdul Qahar Asi, Afghanistan’s most prestigious contemporary poet who was accidently hit and killed by a rocket during the civil wars in Kabul, in 1994. Qahar Asi was much respected for his revolting, epic and romantic poems.
Nima became an active member of Afghanistan’s Pen Associations in Kabul, while also being a member of the Afghan Civil Society and one of the founding members of a poets’ circle known as “Daricha,” where poets gathered and read their poems, which were later reviewed, commented on, and judged by a senior writer or poet. Then, Nima was known as a junior poet whose uncle, Qahar Asi, had been overshadowing in his nephew’s poems for years. However, in 2014, Nima separated himself from traditional poetry and began experimenting and writing in modern poetry forms such as haiku, free verse, and prose poetry, Avant-garde, mostly inspired by Iranian poets such as Ahmad Shamlo, Nima Yushij, Sohrab Sepehri, and Frogh Farokhzad, who were the founding fathers of Persian modern poetry and whose inspirations rooted.
Meanwhile, another generation, senior to Nima Asi’s, known as the “post-Taliban generation,” has been experimenting with new languages in poetry inspired by Iranian poets, as well as translation of Avant-Guard, postmodern, and war literature from all over the world.That generation appears to have been overwhelmed by the Beat Generation (William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg) and their new approach to poetic language, middle eastern literature and poetry such as Mahmoud Darwish, Nouri al-Jarrah, Maram al-Masri, and etc…
Observing his co-generation’s approach to finding new ways to write poetry, Nima realized he had a serious interaction with literature, so he changed his path, migrated to Ankara, Turkey, learned Turkish, which he has been reading books and translating poetry and short stories from into his native language, Farsi.
Having mentioned the complexity of poems, it is worth acknowledging to say that, in Nima’s prose poems, it seems as though complex situations give birth to complicated ideas and pictures where we are extraordinarily panicked by the unexpected things that come along the way and hardens our understanding of them.
But I should have to also assert that one of the factors that Nima’s hard, but poetic language catches our attention is its complexity, along with his unusual title that is quite biblical. Nima becomes Daraf, a word, which, Nima himself puts in the book’s paralogue as a symbol of humanity or an endurance to becoming human. He also sees it as meaningless as any other word we use in our daily communication, but the difference is that this particular meaningless word is seeking meaning as Nima himself is searching for meaning in his life, being a migrant, in a strange country.
Getting into Nima’s world is as hard as getting into the meaning of the surreal painting by Picaso. Asi’s collection of poetry is perhaps a surreal picture of the world that we either sometimes take for granted or hope not to experience in reality.
In addition, we also hope his words define what it is like to be in a world full of strangeness and suffering that could only Daraf is or has been allowed to experience on his own, having no one to talk to but to choose to write them down on a paper in a poetic form.
If it were a novel, I would have described it in this way: Daraf, a painter, is the only protagonist that creates himself, experiences, and kills himself in the end, leaving us a substantial number of abstract paintings he worked on so hard when he was alive. Now, the choice is up to us to decide whether we’re going to preserve what we inherited and learnt from Daraf.
To summarize, I believe–and I hope Nima will agree with me one day–that “Daraf’s death” is one of the few books in which all poetic elements collide, change shape, and give a new meaning to a text attempting to convey things we see, situations we go through, and circumstances we occasionally hope to foresee with someone we lost long ago in the meaningless, dishonest, dehumanized world that we live in. Last but not the least, Daraf’s Death is shocking and the best of poetry collections that I recently read in Farsi. 12