Sunday, April 19, 2015

Day 19 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015


Day Nineteen. Just like April 17, today's numeral and the number of days left in the month are both prime numbers: 19 and 11. If you're writing a poem a day this National Poetry Month, I hope you've been sticking with it. Both my writing buddy Alan and I have in some way written to both "official" prompts by Maureen Thorson and Robert Lee Brewer, whether by combining them or else composing two poems, one for each prompt.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt today: "I’d like to challenge you to write a landay. Landays are 22-syllable couplets, generally rhyming. The form comes from Afghanistan, where women often use it in verses that range from the sly and humorous to the deeply sardonic and melancholy."

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt for day 19: "write an authority poem. Maybe you are an authority on something or know someone who is (or who thinks he or she is). Maybe you respect authority, or maybe not so much. Maybe you are on the run from the authorities."

Cover, I Am the Beggar of the
World
(Eliza Griswold and
Seamus Murphy)
There has been quite some interest in the landay poetic form (pronounced LAND-ee) across the US literary landscape lately because of Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy's 2014 anthology I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan. Two reviews of this book are particularly helpful in learning about the landay: Elisa Castari's "Landay Poetry in Afghanistan" and Daniel Bosch's "Beauty and Subversion in the Secret Poems of Afghan Women." You can also find more landays in Sayd Majrouh and Marjolijn de Jage's 2010 anthology Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women’s Poetry.

Reporting on a presentation by Griswold and Murphy about landays and their work in putting together I Am the Beggar of the World, Eleanor Stanford writes, "In a society that sees many women illiterate and hidden by carefully maintained restrictions on their daily freedoms, this artistic form is both an expression of resistance and of unity. Men may tell their own landays, but the vast majority of the voices speaking the poetry are female" ("Female Poetic Resistance and the Afghan Landay"). For more on the landay, take a look at the Introduction to Griswold and Murphy's Poetry Magazine feature, which can be read at the Poetry Foundation website.

Given that in Afghanistan currently the millenia-old landay form is being used by women to express themselves subversively and dissidently against traditional male authority, I'm worried about appropriating or colonizing here by writing landays. At the same time, all poetic forms must of course be available for all poets. All I can do is assure my readers that I write landays with all due respect to the Afghan women who risk their lives in order to speak their minds.

I began by trying to write in the voice of Clara, my aswang speaker, whose poems I've written so far are set in the '20s and '30s in the Philippines and in the US (see, for example, my Day 4 poem). But as I worked the typical -ma and -na landay rhymes, something else began to develop: the voice of a young rural Filipina unhappily married to an elderly man in the 1980s. I realize this poem is derivative of landays quoted in the articles I mention above — I thank and applaud the Afghan women for whom the landay is true personal expression.

As you no doubt know, I am combining today's two prompts . . . landays against masculine authority. It's fortuitous that Thorson and Brewer came up with prompts that work so well together today.

Young Wife, Old Husband
—landays, in a Philippine province, 1980s
He wants me to be his Madonna
yet also bring in pesos sewing with makina.

He falls asleep fast: a quick dreamer,
whose small piledriver too — thank God — is in a coma.

His work's shifting TV antenna.
I hope soon the old pig gets eternal nirvana.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

The word makina here is the Pilipino word for machine, referring specifically to a sewing machine. In the last landay, the speaker conflates Buddhist nirvana with Catholic heaven. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country.

Our friend Alan also merged the two prompts today: the landay and authority. "Given that I am from Alabama and attended the University of Alabama," says Alan, "I had no problems knowing what to write and what authority I needed to cite. Therefore, Roll Tide, y'all."

Tuscaloosa Landay

Whenever I’m in Alabama,
I understand why Paul “Bear” Bryant called her “mama.”

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Well, Alan, the lay of the landay was ours today. (I hope all y'all readers will forgive my recycling the more-than-slightly sexist connotations of that age-old phrase that has been with us several centuries. The language play was just too hard to resist.) Good use of the -ma rhyme, by the way, Alan. Great too that we're both working with our ancestral lands. 

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   


NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


2 comments:

vstefani said...

Interesting - and fun - to read both your landays. It's an intriguing form, not least because of its cultural context. In anthropology I remember studying cultures in which women have their own languages (they speak and understand the men's language but the men don't understand theirs). In writing my own landay, I almost felt like apologizing for the privilege of being able to say what I did - which doesn't seem transgressive at all in a Western context - so freely, without fear.

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

I regret if my lighter take on today's challenge suggests disrespect. I had read that humor could be a topic of landays.

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