Whittled Words – Landay Poem


Welcome to the weekly series, Whittled Words. A series highlighting the innumerable types and styles of poetry to challenge any creative wordsmith. This week’s selection:




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.

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.


Examples of Landay Poems:




by Taylor Graham


This house, our island in an unknown
sea that tides against a father’s walls and foundations.

How did we come here, this brave new world
on the other side of veils and headscarves, barred windows?

I spend my days in my father’s books,
the volumes he brought from our old, unreachable lives.

Through my window come street voices,
car horns and barking dogs, someone quietly chanting.

I hear the call of the muezzin
so mournful at dawn and nightfall I can’t understand.



By Tracy Davidson

another day, another battle
she nurses her war wounds while he begs for forgiveness

she’ll wave the white flag of surrender
again tonight, but he won’t stop until exhausted

they dance the same dance, night after night,
as his darkness descends and sobriety deserts



By S E Graham

Promise me love, when I lay with you
And I’ll henna your name on my heart with blood from yours

My father will happily sell me
Honour means nothing to him and no price is too great

The night sky sheds tears like stars dying
knows that my life is no longer my own, but now yours

The future is bleak but is better
than the past by far my sweet, so don’t fret, keep me close

Make me believe that my life with you
Will be one to cherish, one to love, and to adore



By Brad Osborne

As a boy I dreamed of flying cars

The promise of every science fiction film I saw

Every man a driver and pilot

Skies filled with hurried commuters mixed with soccer moms

Where home driveways double as runways

And where the potholes, traffic, and roadkill are gone for good

But alas now in these autumn years

No sight of cars swarming the clear, blue, and empty sky

The dreams of youth I must leave behind

Forced to settle for a car that drives itself instead


I hope you have enjoyed this entry to the series, Whittled Words. I look forward to your comments, and if you dare, maybe share your own Landay poem. Thanks for reading!


10 Responses to “Whittled Words – Landay Poem”
  1. Never heard of this form before! Very interesting, love the examples.

  2. beth says:

    i love that this form can vary in length, depending on each poet’s inspiration or situation. p.s. don’t give up on the flying cars just yet )

  3. kristianw84 says:

    This is such a fun poem. I wish I could master these forms the way you do, but then again, my love for the structure doesn’t burn as brightly as yours, and that fire is always apparent in your poetry. Maybe one day, we’ll drive flying cars (I’ve dreamt of that since I was a child, too,) but I fell in love with the reference to your “Autumn years.” There’s something I love about seeing our life through seasons. Well done, my friend!

  4. Jim Borden says:

    I’ve still got my fingers crossed for flying cars, but self-driving isn’t too bad either. This looked like a fun type of poem; I found myself counting the syllables on each line!

  5. petespringerauthor says:

    Flying cars were also part of my dreams. I suspect it’s not an impossibility somewhere down the line.

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