Definition

One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kenia's Wednesday Challenge

image credit: Drew Harron via Compfight

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.




Further reading:



Challenge:

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!






24 comments:

aprille said...

What a wonderful phenomenon. Spirit will out! Anywhere, anytime. Thank goodness.

amidemanila said...

Makes me think of how education can empower women.Like what aprille said, Spirit will out!

Susan said...

So, do I now take Aprille and Amidermanila's poems and add mine? I'm not quite sure how to make it collective--but I'd like to try. Suggestions?

Susan said...

PS: This form brings tears actually--the power of amassed strength and insight. Thank you, Kenia

Kerry O'Connor said...

These poems are so poignant, Kenia. It does one good to know the voice of womanhood cannot be repressed.

aprille said...

@susan,
the way I understand it is that you take just a short phrase snippet here and there from anywhere, not just us, but older poets as well and we all keep adding a little during the next few days. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

This is a very inspiring post, Kenia......I am so glad women's voices cant be silenced. We will always find a way.........the examples you give are so heartrending. And heart-lifting, at the same time. Thanks for the links, so we can read further. We are so lucky, here, to have the freedom to express ourselves.

Kateri said...

I found these brief poems by oppressed women very moving. They seem to me to be very much like proverbs...thanks for the prompt!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Yoiks, so sorry - I accidentally pressed enter before clearing the url spot - posted the wrong link. Please delete it if it shows up. The present one seems to be okay. Serious and important topic, kids. I hate how the linky automatically carries the last thing you posted and one has to clear it to add the proper link. It gives me trouble now and then.

Ella said...

This is moving! I'll be back-to see what I can come up with~ :D

Marian said...

what a beautiful prompt.

Laura Maria said...

So excited to be here for the first time. I LOVE this prompt. Thank you Kenia!

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Kenia, you have inspired so many women with this prompt! A new form, yet it is fluid and without the constraints of rhyme and meter that accompany most forms.

It's like very short rap. It can stab or it can heal... Peace, Amy
PS Took your advice and incorporated one of Sherry's lines in my landai, along with a link to her site, and of course to Real Toads...
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/09/20/justice-for-women-in-oppressed-regimes/

Susie Clevenger said...

Kenia, thanks so much for the prompt. I decided to write landai poems in both an eastern and western voice.

Nimue said...

first time here and I could not have wished for a better prompt ..

Moving and so inspiring to keep the spirits high and voices firm ..

thanks you Kenia !

The articles at the end were so much a good read for heart and soul.

aprille said...

Me again, sorry, but it so happened that I was exposed to a trace of this oppression in real life yesterday.
We went shopping in an English countryside village where the entire well-heeled world concregates because everything from Bond Street is 30 percent off [as if they needed the money]. Burka-clad women, shopping with a man for ....fancy underwear it seemed. Bizarre. Didn't hear much English spoken whilst we walked around. It seemed like a parallel universe or something in a nightmare. Oppression in the midst of our freedom hurts even more.

Susan said...

Well, Kenia, I tried this and I like the outcome--as well as that of the rest of us. If you mean to string them together, it is the first stanza here which is meant for joining with others. This poem came from thinking of the bravery of women in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also from USA history pre-Civil war and since.

Please forgive me for lagging on my reading, I am visiting my parents through next Tuesday and computer time is limited. Have a great weekend!

Len Williams~ Carver said...

Kenia, first time here so hope I did this correctly. Love the landi

Margaret said...

What an emotional morning I have spent reading what these woman have gone through... Thank you for this prompt, Kenia.

Toads ... I am running behind on commenting, but will be back tonight to finish up on Monday's links and these. Just wanted you to know.

Ella said...

This so touching! Thank you Kenia for introducing this prompt~
I am humbled...

Jolly said...

Wonderful! Thanks for starting this.

Kay L. Davies said...

I was so sure I could spend 10 days writing for Real Toads, and commenting on the poems everyone else submitted, but here I am in Northern Alberta, suffering with a pounding head cold while my husband visits with clients.
I love this challenge, Kenia, and wish I could respond to it, but my brain is not available, clogged as it is with this cold.
K

Mary Mansfield said...

Wonderful prompt, Kenia, it has served very well as an opening for a discussion with my daughter about the issues facing women around the world.

Hannah said...

Thank you Kenia for this post...a glimpse into a form I knew not of. So inspiring and an eye-opener too. So very grateful of the freedom to express poetically and otherwise.