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Arabic Verse

The Ghazal, (sounds like guzzle or in the English world pronounced gu ZAHL) Arabic - "talking to women", another translation is "talk of boys and girls" The Ghazal is popular pre-Islamic Persian poetry whose roots could stretch back to the 7th century but was certainly recognized since the 10th century and has easily crossed over into today's Western literary world.

The form is thought to have developed from Persian street challenges and is a shorter, single themed descendant of the Qasida. The predominant theme is love both earthly and spiritual which the ghazal explores with imagination and fantasy. The poetry is often defined by the theme of constant longing.

It is a stanzaic form written in couplets or shers, each couplet is an independent poem linked to the adjacent couplets by meter, rhyme and refrain. The poem as a whole is a collection of thoughts or images and does not tell a story therefore it should not follow a natural progression.. It is more like a patchwork quilt, each patch is related to the other patches but not in any particular or logical sequence.

There appears to be a loosening of the traditional format in the transition from the Urdu or Hindi to English. The traditional ghazal has an intricate rhyme and refrain pattern which has been dumbed down a bit in some more modern English ghazals. The looser version uses a simple rhyme scheme aa xa xa without reference to refrain and some are without rhyme or refrain altogether. It is certainly up to the poet how intricate or simple they care to make it. As with all form, the poem comes first, then the structure. But to be fair to the classical traditions of the form, I believe some structural link must be evident between shers.

The elements of the Ghazal are

  1. metric at the discretion of the poet. All lines should be of equal length and meter.
  2. made up of 5 to 15 shers. The sher is the couplet of the traditional ghazal when it includes a "main rhyme" (qaafiyaa) established somewhere in the 2nd half of L1 of the opening sher (matla), and is repeated in L2 immediately before the refrain (radif), which is the last word or phrase of L2. This main rhyme and refrain is repeated in L2 of ALL subsequent shers in the ghazal.
  3. written with the opening sher (matla) establishing the tone, main rhyme (qaafiyaa) and refrain (radif).
    a = main rhyme; R = refrain
    xxxxxx a xx R
    xxxxxx a xx R
  4. Subsequent shers (maqta) carry the main rhyme and refrain in the 2nd line. L1 of all subsequent shers has no restrictions other than to be the same length or meter as L2.
    xxxxxxa xx R

    xxxxxxaxx R
  5. The last sher (maqta) often includes the (takhallis) name or pen name of the poet.

    Even the Rain by Ahga Shahid Ali

    Ghazal by John Hollander from his book Rhyme's Reason (One of my favorite books on form in which Hollander describes the form in the example poem itself.)

    For couplets, the ghazal is prime; at the end
    Of each one’s a refrain like a chime: “at the end.”

    But in subsequent couplets throughout the whole poem,
    It’s this second line only will rhyme at the end.

    On a string of such strange, unpronounceable fruits,
    How fine the familiar old lime at the end!

    All our writing is silent, the dance of the hand,
    So that what it comes down to’s all mime, at the end.

    Dust and ashes? How dainty and dry! we decay
    To our messy primordial slime at the end.

    Two frail arms of your delicate form I pursue,
    Inaccessible, vibrant, sublime at the end.

    You gathered all manner of flowers all day,
    But your hands were most fragrant of thyme, at the end.

    There are so many sounds! A poem having one rhyme?
    - A good life with a sad, minor crime at the end.

    Each new couplet’s a different ascent: no great peak,
    But a low hill quite easy to climb at the end.

    Two-armed bandits: start out with a great wad of green
    Thoughts, but you’re left with a dime at the end.

    Each assertion’s a knot which must shorten, alas,
    This long-worded rope of which I’m at the end.

    Now Qafia Radif has grown weary, like life,
    At the game he’s been wasting his time at. THE END.

Arabic Poetic Genres and Forms

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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  • 11 months later...

Longing in Rhyme and Rain

To write of my love for you I first find refrain then rhyme
to write in couplets tortured with pain in rhyme.
Telling how you held me up but could not stay,
in long lines of longing that still maintain a rhyme.
We rode mountain trails and sailed in the Gulf.
Now I sit alone, writing a song in the rain with rhyme.
No more will I hear your voice singing off-key,
my tears blotch the page and stain the rhyme.
I think of you and try to place my heart within the line.
my poem mourns love's loss, slain in rhyme.
Only memories and scribbled notes remain,
I tinker with wondrous words to strain the rhyme.
                                          ~~Judi Van Gorder AKA Tinker


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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