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#ROW80 Subject Matters

March 9, 2015 , , , , ,



This week I bought a book of poetry that has been created by illiterate women in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These cultural specialties of the Pashtun tribe are biting commentary on life. Since they live in a war-torn state, to say the least, and their rights are severely limited because they are female, their point of view contains irony and stinging truth about love, war, grief, homeland, and separation. They tackle these subjects with depth and witty metaphor which they have learned from other women. The special right to express themselves is frequently withdrawn if the males in a family learn about it. The book I am reading, I am the Beggar of the World, was inspired by a young girl’s suicide when she was forbidden to create landays and share them on a telephone hot line in Kabul.  The journalists who composed the images and couplets are veteran reporters who had been in the area during years of war, covering just the facts.  They were emotionally and creatively blown away by the density and artfulness of this pastime/folk literature.  The Poetry Foundation helped fund the expedition and Poetry magazine published some of the works.  The response from the magazine’s readers was overwhelming.  People want to see more of this kind of primal undiscovered poetry that is hidden and unknown to outsiders. It has touched me deeply and makes excellent meditation material.

As a writer I am taking on new subjects.  My poems are still simplistic, but I am stretching to find subjects, characters, and perhaps real events that spark my imagination.  I have considered how fresh and essential the landays are because of the restrictions of illiteracy and the need to remain anonymous.  They are wisecracks, jokes, and political farce all rolled into a few words, like a comic distillation of the concept.  Like the work of Dorothy Parker which I am reading, admire, and want to emulate, these jokes are intricate and require some practice to make them work.  They pack a lot of editorial punch into 22 syllables, as Mrs. Parker did in her short witty quips.  Subjects that are taboo can be handled with humor in such a way as to make emphatic points without confronting issues directly.  The discovery of landays and the women who create them leads me to want to take on more difficult subjects.  Politics, art and poetry overlap in any era, and the result can be revealing.  I am working to develop some good cosmic jokes that resonate with my gentle readers on many levels.

As a practice writing poems is revealing and confidence building. I take zero risks typing away on my iPad saying anything that pops into my mind.  In comparison to the Pashtun ladies I suffer very little for my art.  I can publish it, tweet it, change it, illustrate it, and it is free to travel wherever people care to read it.  I am starting to have an appreciation of the opportunity as well as the responsibility that situation creates.  I wonder if I can say something funny and profound that has the power to stick in the mind and change it.  For me the ROW80 challenge continues to be more about what I read and learn than it is about what I am writing now.  The stepping stones to better work are contained in the works of other poets.  They inspire me to look for subjects that matter.



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Interesting information. I admire your commitment.

Liked by 1 person

Susan Langer

March 10, 2015

I had not heard of landays until you brought it up in an earlier post. I am fascinated that there is an alternative expression that is primarily used by women in countries that are so embedded with a narrow perspective of women.
I love how Row80 has opened up new windows and doors of perspective for you within your writing and poetry

Liked by 1 person

Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

March 10, 2015

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