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Landays in Poetry

The June 2013 issue of Poetry is special; it is entirely devoted to landays, “oral folk couplets that have been composed by and circulated among Afghan women for centuries.” In her introduction to the issue, Guest Editor Eliza Griswold writes that a landay is “an oral and often anonymous scrap of song created by and for mostly illiterate people: the more than twenty million Pashtun women who span the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Here is an example, published on the back cover of the issue:

Seperation, you set fire
in the heart and home of every lover.

Griswold explains that landays are made up of twenty-two syllables in two lines, nine syllables on the first and thirteen on the second. “The poem ends with the sound ‘ma’ or ‘na.’ Sometimes they rhyme, but more often not.” She then goes into a deep history of landays and how they are used today. The issue is worth getting if even for the introduction alone. But I wouldn’t stop reading there; the rest of the issue is filled with moving landays and photographs. It is certainly an issue to have in your collection.

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