Split This Rock: Freedom Plow Award

I attended an incredible event last night: the awarding of Split This Rock’s Freedom Plow Award to Eliza Griswold for her work with landays, the folk poems traded orally among Afghani women. The poems are incredibly subversive, displaying a wit, humor, and intelligence far beyond the veiled and submissive image many Americans have when it comes to Afghani women. After powerful performances by the D.C. Youth Poetry Slam Team and an inspiring introduction from Ethelbert Miller, Eliza Griswold spoke about the process of collecting these poems, her “investigative poetry,” and the risks many women she met took to help her. If you don’t know about landays, I strongly recommend you check them out here at the Poetry Foundation website. Griswold’s project is one of the most awe-inspiring collections of poetry I’ve read in a long time. For anyone who doubts the power of words, the power of poetry to impact lives, here is a response. The story of the young woman who set herself on fire when her family stopped her from speaking landays is enough evidence of just how essential these poems are in the lives of many Afghani women. And, as Griswold said in her talk, while the young poet herself died to protest the silencing of her voice, her most famous landay lives on in the voices of other Afghani women, and in Griswold’s translations. I cannot possibly express how grateful I am for access to this work.

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