Landay: Poetry of the Pashtun

Workshop from July 15: The Landay: Poetry of the Pashtun

“Landay” (pronounced lan – die) means literally “a short, poisonous snake.” It is a primarily oral poetic tradition of the Pashtun provinces of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is comprised of couplets of 22 syllables (9 in the first line, 13 in the second).

 Although landays do not generally rhyme, when transcribed into English their internal lilting qualities are often translated into rhyme. The second line often ends in on a syllable with a “-ma” or “-na” sound.

 There are five general tropes commonly found in traditional landays: war, separation, homeland, grief and love. In Pashto, the couplets are typically sung, or recited with musical accompaniment.


These poems are part of an oral tradition that goes back thousands of years, sung by nomads and farmers at wedding ceremonies or around campfires. Today, the landay form has in some ways gone underground, becoming a means of expression and defiance for oppressed Pashtun women.


The blooming season of your beauty will pass;

But the scorched patches on my heart will always remain fresh.


I could have tasted death for a taste of your tongue,

watching you eat ice cream when we were young.


O darling, you’re American in my eyes.

You are guilty; I apologize.


For more information:

Eliza Griswold and photographer Seamus Murphy at Poetry Foundation

interview with Eliza Griswold on Wisconsin Public Radio

Eimal Dorani’s Pashto Landay Facebook page

Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women’s Poetry, Sayd Bahodine Majrouh, editor. November 2003.

One thought on “Landay: Poetry of the Pashtun

  1. Pingback: Landay - Poetry Forms


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