Sunday, April 19, 2015

PAD Day 19: Landays and Authority

I'm excited again about today's judge at Poetic Asides, Dorianne Laux. I worked with here, albeit briefly, in a workshop at Peter Murphy's Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway a few years ago.  She's an  excellent poet and teacher, as well as co-author of one of my favorite craft books, The Poet's Companion.

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo:
(1) Write an "authority" poem, and 
(2) Write a "landay".  A landay is a traditional Afghan form of couplets containing a total of 22 syllables, usually 9 syllables in the first line and 13 in the second. The form has been popular among Afghan women, many of whom are obliged to write them in secret, or not write them at all but memorize and recite them. The themes are often about male oppression in their culture, but also can be erotic or satirically sensual, or topical, addressing subjects like the American occupation.  I thought this was a perfect mesh of prompts for today, but I grappled with how to approach it.  My first drafts of the landays were from a woman's point of view, but I didn't want to sound disingenuous, so I rewrote them from a sympathetic man's point of view.  I also took liberties with the syllable count in each line, though each still has a total of 22 syllables.

Four Landays

You come to my office, dressed black from head to toe.
If not for your eyes, you'd be a shadow.

You are Pashtun. You can't marry for love.
The closest to a kiss comes from his heavy glove.

American women say they're oppressed.
Your cynical smile is hidden by how you're dressed.

To want an education's not a sin.
A brain is to nourish, not put a bullet in.

And here's a "bonus" poem, written just for the Poetic Asides prompt:

Another Century

I fight authority, authority always wins.
                    - John Mellencamp

After four students lay on the ground at Kent State,
we were galvanized to shout at authority,
occupy the administration building,
march on Washington with long hair,
peace symbols, signs and chants.
Phil Ochs and Joan Baez sang to us,
some of us had a picnic,
some of us were tear-gassed,
but we all thought we were making a difference.

That was another century. Now, I'm planning
nothing more subversive than my retirement
from thirty-eight years with the government,
in a job I'd like to think made a difference
in people's lives, while some may see me
as holding the power of life and death.

I fought authority and won.
I fought authority and lost.

1 comment:

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

I like both of these very much.