Poetry of survival

poetry foundation landays eliza griswald afghanistan women literature

Thanks to the June edition of POETRY, the Poetry Foundation’s publication, I learned about landays.

A landay is a “folk couplet” or, to be more precise, “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.”

Eliza Griswold, a poet, traveled to Afghanistan with a photographer to gather and translate landays, a difficult task as these couplets speak of forbidden fruit: love, sex, desire, drones.

As such, the women who compose landays do so in secret and share them anonymously with each other or via the radio and internet.

Landays are ageless; no one know just how old they are. Landays that now speak about Americans, used to speak about the British. Landays about the Taliban could have been about Russia.

The landays above were composed by young girls. But here is a much older, sadder landay:

May God destroy the Taliban and end their wars.
They’ve made Afghan women widows and whores.


To read more landays, here is the full edition of POETRY.

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