Landay: Poetic Form

Let’s keep the poetic forms rolling this week with the landay, which is a form that may have existed for thousands of years–though I just discovered it recently.

Landay Poems

The landay is a variable length form based off a couplet, which means the poem could be as concise as two lines or run on for several pages. The form most likely originated with nomads in the area of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (read an article on Afghan landays here).

Here are the basic rules of the landay:

  • Poem comprised of self-contained couplets–as few as one couplet will do
  • 9 syllables in the first line; 13 syllables in the second line
  • Landays tend to reveal harsh truths using wit
  • Themes include love, grief, homeland, war, and separation

Note: There is not a specific rhyme pattern for this form, though lines tend to end on the sounds of “na” and “ma” in the original Pashto. However, this is difficult to replicate in English. Keep in mind that landays are often sung.

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Here’s my attempt at a Landay Poem:

departures, by Robert Lee Brewer

the cities light up beneath our plane
on the left as the sun retreats from us on the right

the moon appears in rivers below
& then disappears like our fragile first encounters

we both flinched at our first touch but then
crashed back together as if that’s what held us aloft

i’m not sure why some cities still burn
while others dissolve quietly into the darkness

i’m not sure why we need departures
to remind us of the excitement of arrivals

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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20 thoughts on “Landay: Poetic Form

  1. writinglife16

    SHAME AND ANGER

    She is ashamed she pursued him so.
    His reticence in intimate times should have warned her.

    Her china broke as it hit the wall.
    She felt better for releasing her anger this way.

    He would think she was crazy for this.
    She would tell him, better the dishes than your big head.

    He came home and then called the police.
    They came and she showed them the nude
    pictures she had found.

    The officers escorted him out.
    “When she is done with the glass, she will come after you.”

  2. taylor graham

    MIRANDA IN BURKA

    This house, our island in an unknown
    sea that tides against a father’s walls and foundations.

    How did we come here, this brave new world
    on the other side of veils and headscarves, barred windows?

    I spend my days in my father’s books,
    the volumes he brought from our old, unreachable lives.

    Through my window come street voices,
    car horns and barking dogs, someone quietly chanting.

    I hear the call of the muezzin
    so mournful at dawn and nightfall I can’t understand.

  3. seingraham

    A challenging but interesting form – if I have time, I might try some more. I’ve enjoyed reading some of the Afghani women’s – they’re rich with something I can’t quite capture but would love to keep trying to.

    WITH PROMISES MADE

    Promise me love, when I lay with you
    And I’ll henna your name on my heart with blood from yours

    My father will happily sell me
    Honour means nothing to him and no price is too great

    The night sky sheds tears like stars dying
    knows that my life is no longer my own, but now yours

    The future is bleak but is better
    than the past by far my sweet, so don’t fret, keep me close

    Make me believe that my life with you
    Will be one to cherish, one to love, and to adore

    TRIALS

    Their love, true, withstood so much so long
    But this, it tried,brought them lower than e’re before

    Burying a child either unites
    Or tears to pieces loving couples, this they had heard

    Feeling sick with loss, and desperate
    They turned away, then back to cling to their truest selves

    There’s no closing the void left by death
    And a child’s rends an abyss worse than most, far deeper

    But, these parents— felt—on some level
    If they were willing to forge a bond too strong to break

    They would make it, in the end, they would
    Trusting in all they meant to each other, they would try.

  4. Tracy Davidson

    The Enemy

    another day, another battle
    she nurses her war wounds while he begs for forgiveness

    she’ll wave the white flag of surrender
    again tonight, but he won’t stop until exhausted

    they dance the same dance, night after night,
    as his darkness descends and sobriety deserts

  5. riversidepoet

    Unsolved Love (Landay Poem)

    I find myself standing oft in awe
    And oh at my heart does this mystery often gnaw

    Surely it must be against the law
    I am telling you it is more than a man can chaw

    Reservation, a warrior and squaw
    Funny how since time began they’ve been grasping at straws

    Like a wildcat she sinks in her claws
    Hoping in vain that brave’s cold heart will finally thaw

    I think sometimes it should be outlawed
    Why should man spend his life trying to solve a jigsaw?

    At the bank of love I overdraw
    It’s as wild as kingdom at mutual of Omaha

    And then there’s that time of martial law
    I speak of course of none other than Mother-In-Law

    If mine had just not been without flaw
    Life would have been much easier I can tell you all

    Kent Phalen

  6. J.lynn Sheridan

    A Quixotic Truth

    One word in the morning (maybe two)
    quickens the wick of his downy quill. His wizened eyes

    drift to a vagrant page. Wandering
    master weaver spins golden words of silk—gentle/soft.

    While I, awed in midnight candlelight,
    pose—a frozen fool caught between the crisp empty lines.

  7. RJ Clarken

    Spellbound

    I found a petite volume of verse
    filled to the brim with larger-than-life inspirations.

    How could something so big fit inside
    something so infinitesimally slim? But words

    create magic in ways I can’t hope
    to understand. Incantation, chant, charm, prayer, and wish

    make up part of it, but then, what else?
    While I ponder this conundrum, think I’ll read some more.

    ###

  8. taylor graham

    ALICE-DOOR

    She walked past sleep into a new world,
    the edge of forest filtered by nightly spiderwebs.

    The old way evolved, involved, revolved
    and unexpectedly ended in a cul-de-sac.

    Thickets – no, here’s a narrow way, thin
    as a straw, a cannula disappearing in dark,

    and then a chamber of clear sunlight
    out of shadow, a space where she might freely breathe.

    If she should wake, she knows she’ll never
    find this place again, no street signs – this forever green.

  9. madcapmaggie

    The Bystander’s Blues

    I saunter down to the street corner,
    wrap my hands around the cup and swallow hot coffee

    A local bad boy wanders on by,
    glances up and down the street a time or two or three

    He pulls a jimmy from his pocket,
    picks a brand new Cadillac and opens up the door

    I hear the engine turning over
    The car pulls into traffic, peels away with roar

    Let some other poor sucker catch him
    For my part, I reckon it’s a simple waste of time

    While he’s a juvenile delinquent,
    jails are higher education in a life of crime

    Margaret Fieland

  10. taylor graham

    AN OLD HISTORY

    We turn the pages of the diggers,
    shovel and brush to discover the past under dust.

    He stole the sacred books to hide them
    from the looters, from torches that hate a lovely thing.

    The age is fading as a home glimpsed
    through the haze of a distance we never cross again.

    In these flammable hills, no war burned
    our towns, just carelessness, our busy lack of caring.

    I write my poems for wind to blow
    like a lover’s vow that ends at last in a comma,

  11. Anthony94

    Today food will flow through the two sides
    of a truce into Aleppo, so states NPR

    other truces have happened before
    but there has been no end to the war for besieged towns

    sealed off from the world, they’re dying in
    a war of hunger, thirst, homelessness and hopelessness

    Now the man’s recorded voice says
    there are no fruits or vegetables for so long, just rice

    in bombed stores dusty cans, broken shelves
    remind him how his shattered city used to be

    he doesn’t think the war will end but
    hopes this truce will last long enough for trucks to come in

    Cupboards hold more food than he has seen
    in months; we load boxes and head to the food pantry

    only two, we cannot feed his world
    a world apart yet we can meet the needs of others

    hands reaching until they bridge oceans
    a chain of hands holding hope not ideologies

    1. riversidepoet

      Unsolved Love (Landay)

      I find myself standing oft in awe
      And oh at my heart does this mystery often gnaw

      Surely it must be against the law
      I am telling you it is more than a man can chaw

      Reservation, a warrior and squaw
      Funny how since time began they’ve been grasping at straws

      Like a wildcat she sinks in her claws
      Hoping in vain that brave’s cold heart will finally thaw

      I think sometimes it should be outlawed
      Why should man spend his life trying to solve a jigsaw?

      At the bank of love I overdraw
      It’s as wild as kingdom at mutual of Omaha

      And then there’s that time of martial law
      I speak of course of none other than Mother-In-Law

      If mine had just not been without flaw
      Life would have been much easier I can tell you all

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