Some voices are so distant and forbidden, to hear then is nearly miraculous. Add to that an unexpected source for this connection. But most surprising and disarming are the qualities of these voices: beautiful, witty and piercing.
The book “Landays” by Eliza Griswold provides all these surprises: published by Poetry as their June 2013 issue, it is a book that features short poetry from Afghan women. Quotes below are from the text.
It is a work of many voices, with context carefully crafted by the author. The text is beautifully augmented with photographs by Seamus Murphy, too. But mainly it is the Afgan women who speak through Landays, an art form of short poetry. Landays are couplets, often sung aloud among women, sometimes to the beat of a hand drum. It is a form of expression for women, from behind a burqa-like cloak of secrecy from the public, and in particular the men.
“Usually in a village or a family one woman is more skilled at singing landays than others, yet men have no idea who she is. Much of an Afghan woman’s life involves a cloak-and-dagger dance around honor — a gap between who she seems to be and who she is.”
Sometimes gentle sounding, the Landays can strike like sledgehammer blows. They have a “beauty, bawdiness, and wit’ as well as “a piercing ability to articulate a common truth about war, separation, homeland, grief, or love.”
This book made me think about these people and their lives and what they wake up to. such passion they have, and I feel their passion is the alternative to being immobilized by all the harshness in their lives. It connects with their circumstances and culture. it is an affirmation of the strongest kind.
And the history of the art for is interesting, too.
“One leading theory of the landays’ origin traces back to the Bronze Age arrival of Indo-Aryan caravans to Afganistan, Pakistan, and India around 1700 BCE. These poems could have evolved out of communication through call and response back and forth over a long caravan train. Many of the poems refer back to this nomadic way of life, as well as to the moon, flowers, nature. As ancient songs, they are thought to be related to the Vedas, the Hindu scriptures at least five thousand years old and comprised of couplets called slokas, not unlike landays, except that they are 16 rather than 22 syllables long.”
Again, the archaeology of language and culture. Fascinating, this world.
I read this as a part of the 7 Continents, 7 Billion People, 7 Books Reading Challenge 2013.