Poetry Features Verse from Afghan Women
CHICAGO — The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is pleased to announce the publication of the June 2013 issue, “Landays.” The issue is dedicated entirely to poetry composed by and circulated among Afghan women.
After learning the story of a teenage girl who was forbidden to write poems and burned herself in protest, poet and journalist Eliza Griswold and photographer and filmmaker Seamus Murphy journeyed to Afghanistan to investigate the impact of the girl’s death, as well as the role that poetry plays in the lives of contemporary Pashtuns. A year later, Griswold and Murphy returned to Afghanistan to study the effects of more than a decade of U.S. military involvement on the culture and lives of Afghan women. In the course of this work, Griswold collected a selection of landays, or two-line poems. These poems are accompanied by Murphy’s stunning photographs from the same period and are presented in the June 2013 issue of Poetry.
Griswold describes the characteristics of a landay in her introduction:
Twenty-two syllables: nine in the first line, thirteen in the second. The poem ends with the sound “ma” or “na.” Sometimes they rhyme, but more often not. In Pashto, they lilt internally from word to word in a kind of two-line lullaby that belies the sharpness of their content, which is distinctive not only for its beauty, bawdiness, and wit, but also for the piercing ability to articulate a common truth about war, separation, homeland, grief, or love.
Landays are centuries-old custom among Afghans, traditionally passed along in the oral tradition, and passed down through generations. The topics of the landays included in the June 2013 issue run the gamut—love, marriage, war, the status of women, drones, politics, courage, nature, the Internet—even farting. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, these captivating two-line poems offer unique insight into the contemporary life of the more than twenty million Pashtun women who span the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The June 2013 issue of Poetry is accompanied by an exhibition at the Poetry Foundation gallery in Chicago, Shame Every Rose: Images of Afghanistan, which will feature a selection of Seamus Murphy’s photographs. The exhibition will run from June through August 2013 and is free and open to the public.
The June 2013 issue of Poetry wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Pulitzer Center and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The Pulitzer Center will present “I Am the Beggar of the World,” a reading and film screening event, on July 30, 2013, at Culture Project in New York City and on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Farrar, Straus and Giroux will release I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan in spring 2014.
The entire June 2013 issue will be available online as of June 3 at www.poetrymagazine.org.
Digital copies of the June issue of Poetry magazine, as well as a digital subscription, are also available.
Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Monroe’s “Open Door” policy, set forth in Volume 1 of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry’s mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach. The magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems of T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H.D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and other now-classic authors. In succeeding decades it has presented—often for the first time—works by virtually every major contemporary poet.
About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org.
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