Poetry On Demand

Part of the "Send Two Hippies In Love To San Francisco" Fund.

8.17.2005

Ghazal

A Persian poetic form, from the Arabic for "the talk of boys and girls". These poems are usually flirty and sweet-talking, light-hearted. It is formed of five to twelve couplets, with the poet's name in the final stanza. The lines do not have to necessarily tell a story, in fact, one of the characteristics of a classic ghazal is that each couplet can stand on its own and be understood, like a proverb or saying. However, all of the lines contribute to a central idea- the unity is based on the idea of a theme, and its variations.

In regards to meter, in the most traditional ghazal (which is what I try to work with) the lines are all the same length, syllable-wise.

The rhyme scheme is fairly complicated for the ghazal. The first couplet shares a rhyme, and is supposed to set the mood for the entire poem. That first rhyme (the actual words, called radif) is supposed to be repeated as the rhyme in the second line of each of the successive couplets. Also, the words that come before the radif (called kaafiyaa) are supposed to rhyme with the kaafiyaa of all successive rhymes.

An example is below but here, roughly, is the rhyme scheme:

1A
A

B
1A

C
1A

D
1A

E
1A

And so on. The 1 is the kaafiyaa, whereas A represents the radif, the words that repeat. It is similar to the rondeau, in the sense that it is only a few words that must necessarily be repeated, and not the whole line.

Here is a ghazal that I wrote, as close to the original Persian format as possible. I wasn't able to find any other formal English ghazals.

By the Phone

I wish I could stop waiting by the phone
I know I cannot live life by the phone

"It seemed everything started off just fine,"
I sit here contemplating by the phone.

We'd hardly seen each other out of class
but found ourselves relating by the phone.

I loved to sit and work with you all night,
Composing and creating by the phone.

When we decided to start "going out,"
We stopped our conversating by the phone.

When college came you moved; we'd spend our nights
up late commiserating by the phone.

Our first semester we were doing fine--
We were a couple, dating by the phone.

The spring came and I thought that all was well,
No clue you were debating by the phone.

You told me that you'd found another girl:
Relationship-negating by the phone.

Though I still find myself here every night,
My love's disintegrating by the phone.

When I believe that I am strong enough
Well, Laurie will start hating by the phone.

Of course, that's still being worked on, and there's an alternate final stanza, but it's a start, at least. A difficult form, definitely.

5 Comments:

At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Daniel said...

Hey there I came across this site from Neil Gaiman's site..very informative stuff you have here and I think your poems are really good..a question about the rhyme scheme for the ghazal though..shouldn't it start off as
1A
A

and not

A
1A

since in your example I gather that the kaafiyaa is "waiting" in line 1?

Good luck with your fund too..

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Laurie said...

Thank you, and duly changed. I was so caught up in trying to find a formal English example online that I didn't bother proofread the rhyme scheme.

 
At 3:54 PM, Anonymous ghazalsrinivas said...

Hello Laurie

This is Ghazal Srinivas from India. Your ghazal on Phone is excellent..I appreciate. I wish you will wrtie more ghazals in English. bye
visit my website www.ghazalsrinivas.com
bye
ghazalSrinivas
An exponent of Telugu ghazals
India

 
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