This week in advanced poetry workshop our assignment was to write a ghazal. A ghazal is a poetic form originating from Arabic verse that consists of couplets. These couplets typically involve a rhyme scheme and a refrain. They can also stand alone as their own poetic unit. The couplets need not be unified by one subject, rather they evoke an mood. Traditional ghazals are about love, longing, and spirituality. Also, the final couplet of the poem usually refers to the poet and includes their name. Rumi and Hafiz often wrote in ghazal.
While I strive to inspire a mood in my poems and sometimes bounce around in chronological time rather than illustrate a specific subject, I actually wrote a series of couplets that tells somewhat of a story. I might edit this out of ghazal form and just make it free verse. I’m not sure yet. Let me know what you think in the comments, if you’d like.
Here is a ghazal by a master of the form, Agha Shadhid Ali. He is able to do amazing things while keeping within a strict rhyme scheme. Of course, that is always a challenge. I tend to not to rhyme in my poetry.
(disclaimer) This is my first draft.
The imprecise roamer seeks a technique for survival.
She deciphers the voices that critique survival.
A daughter considers whom to follow. Hopeful, she peers inside.
Mother, grandmother, artist, idol, all hold the mystique of survival.
They articulate bliss, which is not wholly proven, but sensed.
When her muse gets mugged, how will she bespeak survival?
Wise men say there is only love. She knows not what kind they speak of.
Was her escape an attempt so weak at survival?
There once were loose layers of space between her beloved’s bones.
She hid nicely in there. His physique offered her survival.
The woman who wanders navigates prophecies and lies.
She labors to rid her body of blame. Her skin weeps survival.
She looks inside. Long enough this time to close her eyes.
With breath in her chest she reaches for survival.
As you can see, the couplets could stand on their own but they also work together to tell a story. I think I’m going to try again to write a more traditional ghazal, in which the couplets are more disconnected. I wound up writing a bit of a feminist ghazal, (I really can’t help myself) illustrating a woman who roams alone and the spiritual guides or misguidance she may receive along the way. Woman fed a lot of misinformation about their bodies, their rights, their choices, and their lives, and it can be difficult to find what feels authentic and good. We all, as humans, strive to find that way of life that feels right for us whether it comes in the form of a religion, a life path, a relationship, a new location, or a change of attitude.
On an unrelated note, the other night I woke in the middle of the night with the urge to write down what I thought was a brilliant line.
When I woke up for real in the morning, I had written “I dreamt that your daughter was a grape vine.”
I should probably have just stayed asleep.