Landay: Poetic Form - Writer's Digest

Landay: Poetic Form

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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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