Every Grain of Light: Writing Poetry in Afghanistan 2016

Course Description

This six-week course will bring together young, aspiring writers in Jalalabad, Kabul, and Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, to explore a diverse selection of poetry and poetic forms, and to refine their own voices through writing exercises and assignments. The course is centered on the theme of how universal experiences in poetry are particularized by the poet—the ways in which ancient and universal concepts such as love, death, passion, and solitude can be made personal through poetic expression. The course title, Every Grain of Light, was adapted from Joanna Klink's poem "Half Omen Half Hope," which the students will study in the course.

Students will gather in the Lincoln Learning Centers (LLC) in their respective cities once per week for a two-hour class session, taught by course instructor Justin Wymer via live video conference held on the Zoom platform. On-site course facilitators will be present at the LLCs for every class to set up technology, answer student questions, distribute reading materials, and assist with translation if needed. In each class, students will be given lessons on a different poetic craft element, read and discuss published poems, write their own poems, and share their work with one another. Three major poem assignments will culminate in a revised and polished portfolio at the end of the course.

The course will begin on July 13 and end on August 24, 2016. The Embassy of the United States in Kabul promoted the course to young writers in Afghanistan and selected 30 participants, ten in each of the three locations. These students were chosen to participate in the course based on their enthusiasm for and commitment to the study of creative writing.

Course Instructor

Justin WYMER is a writer, editor, and English and literature teacher currently based in Spain. He earned his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and his BA in English from Harvard University, where he was awarded the Captain Jonathan Fay Prize for best thesis at Harvard College. He has received awards and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, Harvard Office for the Arts, and the University of Iowa as well as a Rockefeller International Experience Grant. You can find some of his poems in Boston Review, Conjunctions, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Lana Turner, Kenyon Review, THRUSH, and elsewhere. A native of West Virginia, he has an unhealthy addiction to hot sauce and loves green mountains. Justin worked as a teaching moderator in the IWP's #Flashwrite Teen Poetry MOOC in Spring 2016.

Course Facilitators

Abdul Latif MAL was born in the Achin district of Afghanistan, completed his primary education in Pakistan, and returned to Afghanistan to study in the Pashto language department under the Languages and Literature faculty of Nangarhar University. He subsequently completed an MA in Social Research and Educational Development at Karlstad University in Sweden. In 1998, he established the Shinwari English Language and Computer Institute in Ghanikhil District, which has since graduated hundreds of students. From 2010 to 2012 he served as the Director of Innikass Radio in Jalalabad, and from 2008 to 2014 he served as President of the South Asia Free Media Association. He has represented Afghanistan at a number of international education conferences around the world.

Farkhonda RAJABE is a writer and human rights activist. The author of the short story collection [Cold Hands] (2008), she has also edited poetry collections of young regional poets, among them Drang dar Rang [Focus on Color] and Farda Waraq Bezan [Look Forward to the Future]. She directs the Partaw Cultural House in Mazar-i-Sharif, whose Dari-language monthly Partaw she edits. She is a graduate student in the Department of Dari Literature at the Faculty of Languages and Literature of Balkh University.

Kawa SAHAB is a writer, human rights activist, and legal expert based in Kabul, Afghanistan. After completing a BA in Law and Political Science at Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif, he went on to earn a MA in Art in Conflict Resolution from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, India. He has worked in legal positions for a number of organizations, including the Afghanistan Civil Society Forum Organization, the Civil Society and Human Rights Network, and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and was involved in the drafting of Afghanistan’s Access to Information Law. He currently works as a Legal Advisor for Transboundary Water for the Ministry of Energy and Water.

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