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.