Landay Poetry: How Form, Changeability, and Content Attribute to the Success of a Hushed Rebellion

Faculty Sponsor

David Western


Christ College


Christ College

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-23-2016


Landay poetry - a striking, 22-syllable poetic form - is performed by Afghani women in private settings for fear of violent retaliation from their male counterparts. Because of the anonymous nature of the poems, and the cultural expectations of the Pashtun women, very little is known about landay poetry outside of Afghanistan. In their lack of singular authorship, landays become unpredictable and thus, seemingly, unsuccessful, especially when compared to contemporary poetry giants. These factors have made academics hesitant to consider them. But should scholars really think of landay poetry in this way: unsuccessful and difficult to study? In this paper I suggest that landay should be seen as a successful poetic form. Furthermore, rising awareness of the qualities of landay could potentially lead to both better understanding of the Afghani culture and a potential change in women's roles. Using Eliza Griswold's I am the Beggar of the World to assess a collection of landays, I identify ways in which landay can be successful, especially their ability to stand up next to the poems of better-known contemporary poets, and become a valuable resource in education about the Pashtun culture. These poems have survived for centuries within a small population because of their anonymity. They are able to morph in order to stay relevant, even within their limited format, and they display a lilted, translated form, often with graphic, cultural content. All of this mark landay as a successful poetic form that has the potential to make a large impact on the Pashtun world and beyond.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Kristine Tarmann is a senior psychology major, art and chemistry double minor at Valparaiso University. Next fall, she plans to attend Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, WI in order to pursue a master's degree in art therapy. Kristine originally became interested in poetry through slam poetry and has always been intrigued by other performed poetry. Landay poetry fulfills this curiosity and offers an interesting and striking cultural component, which other poetry often does not possess.

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