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Hello there Toads! I'm glad to be back to my spot and today I'm bringing the subject of an article I read in The New York Times a few months ago: Poetry in Afghanistan. The folklorist Margaret Mills called Afghanistan, “The most literary illiterate society.”, with generations of women learning poetry through the rich oral tradition and passing it down to their children.
Only five out of 100 women in Afghanistan graduate from high school; most are married by the age of 16. For many, poetry allows them to express themselves. It's the only voice they have, but women writing poetry is seen as shameful and could result in a beating or even death, reason why they have to rely on pen names.
Women write and recite landai, two-line folk poems that can often be humorous, sexy, raging, tragic and also deal with love, grief, war, exile and Afghan independence. The success of the poetry form is atributed to it being easy to memorize, which is really important in a culture where women are poorly schooled and forbidden to write or read.
The word landai means “short, poisonous snake” in Pashto. The poems are collective — no single person writes a landai; a woman repeats one, shares one. It is hers and not hers. Although men do recite them, almost all are cast in the voices of women.
Making love to an old man is like
Making love to a limp cornstalk blackened by fungus.
One person kills himself
A generation dies.
May your airplane crash and may the pilot die
that you are pouring bombs on my beloved Afghanistan.
My pains grow as my life dwindles,
I will die with a heart full of hope.
I am shouting but you don’t answer —
One day you’ll look for me and I’ll be gone from this world.
Today I invite you to find your voices and write a bunch of landai. Use a word or part of a sentence in someone else's poem for inspiration if necessary. Let landai pieces communicate among one another and resonate a message of non-compliance with the status quo. You can either write single landai to be incorporated by others, or incorporate the ones written in the entries before yours. When you're sure to have said something, come and share it with the other toads in the Garden. Happy writing!