because while some truths lend themselves to equations, others are best described in verse

The Landay

This post is a little different. I haven’t been this excited about a poetry form in, well, ever.

The landay is a type of Afghan folk poetry with a rich oral tradition and an important place
in the education and expression of Afghan women of the Pashtun region. I stumbled upon
it from this article in June’s Poetry Magazine. I was so inspired by the story, we even held
a workshop on landays this past Monday night. The poems are couplets, with the two lines
broken into nine and thirteen syllables, respectively. There are other guidelines to the form
(see my workshop page here), but more important to me was to capture the sense of
personal bitterness and profound social truth so often found in these poems. Here are a few
attempts of my own, some adhering more strictly to syllable count and endings than others:

What can a woman know of war?
Only how to weep angry tears and bury her dead.

*

I sing even under my blue hood.
My mother says I am a most determined songbird.

*

He says at home I am a flower
but to the world I should be as plain as a weed.

*

Pop stars and text messages, how sad:
small girls dream no longer of being warrior princesses.

*

My love is as a tattoo in blood.
Your love is as the brown ink of a bride’s henna.

*

Now I carry a sword when I dance*;
cut to shreds are the dreams of being a ballerina.

*

Your kiss is like whiskey on a cold night.
Your indifference is the cold night that kills my buzz.

25 responses

  1. *author’s note: photo forthcoming– i promise! πŸ˜‰

    July 16, 2013 at 10:38 am

  2. Looks very interesting, I’ll have to visit your workshop page !

    July 16, 2013 at 10:49 am

    • thanks! please do & feel free to try a few yourself!

      July 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm

  3. My love is as a tattoo in blood.
    Your love is as the brown ink of a bride’s henna.

    the contrast in that really drives the emotions home, each of these is like a facet that builds the picture.
    it is sad on the watered down dreams we’ve sold our kids as well…pop stars…oh joy.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:00 am

    • there seemed to be a lot of anger/sadness/bitterness in the ones I read… expected, given the situations many of these women face daily. I tried to put my own spin on those emotions, and still keep the tartness. thanks for dropping by, b!

      July 16, 2013 at 1:46 pm

  4. Holy cow, each one better than its predecessor. I loved the starkness of the imagery, they juxtaposition. Bravo, this is brilliant.

    Most powerful:
    “He says at home I am a flower
    but to the world I should be as plain as a weed.”

    Love love loved these. – Moskowitz, Inspired

    July 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    • ooh!: me inspire you? how cool is that? thanks, friend Mosk! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      July 16, 2013 at 1:47 pm

  5. Do like that poetic form…tried one a while back when form was highlighted on another website I read…enjoyed yours.

    July 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    • thanks, slp. I’m usually not one big on form, but I’m enjoying these, too. They are somehow darkness and hope contained in two little lines…

      July 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

  6. So lovely. A determined songbird!

    July 16, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    • Thanks, Misky! πŸ™‚

      July 18, 2013 at 9:45 am

  7. Thanks so much, Joanna… I definitely want to look further into this form. I especially like the first and last one.

    July 16, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    • Thank you, Laurie. I was experimenting from some of the more traditional themes to ones closer to home for me. I do certainly recommend trying these!

      July 18, 2013 at 9:49 am

  8. Now I carry a sword when I dance*;
    cut to shreds are the dreams of being a ballerina. – Sublime writing.

    July 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    • Thank you! and 100% true, too! πŸ™‚

      July 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

  9. Joanna, these are quite good. I like the form and may give it a try.

    Pamela

    July 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    • why, thanks, Pamela! I hope you do get a chance to try it out. πŸ™‚

      July 18, 2013 at 10:01 am

  10. Wow, your opening rocked me and begged me to read further. Well written.

    July 16, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    • thanks, Beth. i felt like they got better the more of them i wrote. πŸ™‚

      July 18, 2013 at 10:05 am

  11. When I read that article, I was intrigued by the form as well. You’ve done a brilliant job with it.

    July 17, 2013 at 12:06 am

    • thanks so much! it was unspeakably moving to me to see how “present” and vital poetry is/can be… i couldn’t help but try!

      July 18, 2013 at 10:08 am

  12. I love the history and simplicity of the Landay poems (as I have written some based on the same article) ~

    I thought yours are sharp and brings the woman’s dreams & reality to the forefront ~ This is my favorite as the contrast is done so well:

    He says at home I am a flower
    but to the world I should be as plain as a weed.

    Grace

    July 17, 2013 at 11:48 am

    • Thank you, Grace. would be interested in reading some of yours as well.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:14 am

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