About Poetry – How to write a Landay

Carolyn Crossley

©🦊VixenOfVerse, 2020.

Landay (poetry)

traditional Afghan poetic form consisting of a single couplet

The Landay is a traditional Afghan poetic form consisting of a single couplet. There are nine syllables in the first line, and thirteen syllables in the second. These short poems typically address themes of love, grief, homeland, war, and separation. 


In Pashto, “landay (LAND-ee)” means “short, poisonous snake,” likely an allusion to its minimal length and use of sarcasm. Landays (or landai) often criticize traditions and gender roles. The poems were often sung by women.


Afghan culture values literature very highly, particularly classical Persian literature and Pashto literature and poetry.

Landays were likely brought into Afghanistan by Indo-Aryans around 1700 CE. The short songs became popular among farmers and nomads. Landai are traditionally performed by women.


There are few formal properties. Each landay consists of a single, twenty-two syllable couplet. There are nine syllables in the first lines, and thirteen syllables in the second. In Pashto, the poem ends on a “ma” or “na” sound. The lines do not generally rhyme.

Like the couplets of a ghazal, landai in sequence work “independently and sometimes can be grouped with others according to subject matter.”


  • War (Pashto: jang)
  • Separation (biltoon)
  • Patriotism (watan)
  • Grief (gham)
  • Love (meena)

Important Poets


Footnotes: these landays have been written for thousands of years before being brought to Afghanistan. Here they were written anonymously or under a secret pen name. This gave the Afghan women the freedom to write whatever they wanted to and they did. They were often about love, sex and secret affairs.

When writing them in English you may choose to rhyme them or not.


Wikipedia, BBC.

This is part of my about poetry series concentrating on form poetry..