The Pashtun people are a nomadic people who still travel along the borders of Afghanistan today. Pashtun women started to share their Landay around the campfires to discuss issues among the women of the tribe. This was communications about love, sex, war any issues that affected them. Landay is a folk couplet that is shared as an anonymous song usually sung for the illiterate women in the group. This couplet was shared with a hand drum used to provide the beat. Landay have twenty two syllables, nine in the first line, and thirteen in the second. These poems usually do not rhyme but end with the sound "ma" or "na." Modern Pashtun women would share their Landay around the watering hole but even this has been quieted by the Taliban. The Taliban banned all Landay between 1996 and 2001 and even though the form survived women had to find other ways to share. According to Eliza Landay is now shared through modern social media and cell phones. Modern Pashtun women use the internet as their modern waterhole. They communicate their Landay on Facebook or through texts.
The Article Eliza Wrote
Eliza explained in her article, published in the latest edition of Poetry Magazine, that Sayd Bahodine Maijrosh began collecting Landay for publication in the 1980s. He had a difficult time with his collection but was able to collect enough for a book. Eliza had little more success with her endeavours simply because she was a woman. She was able to confide in and become friendly with many Pashtun women who then allowed her to share Landay with them. Many times she was asked to leave Seamus behind to journey into the inner circle of Pashtun women. Her article at poetryfoundation.com contains many examples of ancient and modern Landay along with stories of the women who wrote them. Her examination into Landay and how Landay is used in the Pashtun culture opens many questions on how poetry is used in society. Today in America Hip Hop lyrics tend to talk to certain races and slam poetry has been used to share stories of inner city life. Our culture has taken for granted its use of poetry as a form of communication and Eliza has brought the conversation of poetry as cultural communication back to the forefront. Most poetry when looked at through a western lens seems stuffy and academic as if the goal of the poetry is to reach some sort of perfection in language. Landay points out that poetry is not a search for perfection but a form of sharing our human experiences. Pashtun women use the Landay as a way to discuss issues amongst themselves without bringing attention to the individual. This collection of Landay that Eliza has collected speaks volumes of the secret life of the women of Afghanistan and hopefully will help the world to find common human problems shared between all cultures.
EXAMPLES OF LANDAY From "Landays" by Eliza Griswold poetryfoundation.com "Separation, you set fire in the heart and home of every lover"
"Wormwood grows on the one-eyed Mullah's grave The Talib boy's fight blindly on believing he's alive"
"Mother, come to the jailhouse windows Talk to me before I go to the gallows"
"May God destroy the Taliban and end their wars They've made Afghan women widows and whores"
"My body is fresh as Henna leaf Green outside; inside, raw meat"