Aug 27, 2009


Today's Passion for Poetry is the Ghazal.

Ghazal (pronounced "ghuzzle") is an Arabic word that means "talking to women."

The Ghazal was developed in Persia in the 10th century AD from the Arabic verse form qasida. It was brought to India with the Mogul invasion in the 12th century. The Ghazal tradition is currently practiced in Iran (Farsi), Pakistan (Urdu) and India (Urdu and Hindi). In India and Pakistan, Ghazals are set to music and have achieved commercial popularity as recordings and in movies. A number of American poets, including Adrienne Rich and W.S. Merwin, have written Ghazals, usually without the strict pattern of the traditional form.

A traditional Ghazal is a collection of Shers which follow the rules of Matla, Beher, Kaafiyaa and Radif, so to know what a Ghazal is, it's necessary to know what these terms mean.

A Sher is a poem of two lines. A Sher does not need anything around it to convey the message, it is a poem in itself.

Beher can be considered the meter, or length, of the Sher. Both lines of the Sher must be of the same Beher, and all the Shers in one Ghazal must be of the same Beher.

The second line of all the Shers must end with the same word or words. This repetition is called the Radif.

Kaafiyaa is the rhyming pattern which all the words before Radif must have.

The first Sher in the Ghazal must have Radif in its both lines. This Sher is called Matla of the Ghazal.

The poet may use the final Sher as a signature Sher, using his or her name in first, second or third person. This is called a Maqta.

Each couplet should be a poem in itself, like a pearl in a necklace. There should not be continuous development of a subject from one couplet to the next through the poem. The Radif provides a link among the Shers.

In summary:
A Ghazal consists of five to fifteen couplets, typically seven. A refrain (a repeated word or phrase) appears at the end of both lines of the first couplet and at the end of the second line in each succeeding couplet. In addition, one or more words before the refrain are rhymes or partial rhymes. The lines should be of approximately the same length and meter. The poet may use the final couplet as a signature couplet.

My example:

Wind whispers softly in the trees,
listen, hear the sighing trees.

Autumn changes all the leaves
a forest filled with crying trees.

A slender birch is bent to dance
a wood nymph glorifying trees.

A secret is not safe at all
when told beneath the spying trees.

I see a thousand shades of green
when I look upon the sighing trees.

A sunset paints the mountainside
liming rocks and dyeing trees.

The loggers come and cut their swath
and all around are dying trees.

Note: this Ghazal does not contain a Maqta. :-)


Lost Wanderer said...

I love Ghazals. Though I read/write them in Hindi/Urdu, which is much more authentic as it's close to arabic.

It's interesting to read this info though because I never knew all the technical stuff about it. It was just learn-by-instinct kind of thing.

Jamie D. said...

I love your example. So..ah...poetic. :-) Seriously, it's beautiful, and made me want to go tell secrets to the whispering trees.

As for the style, that's really a lot of rules to remember! It kind of creates an ironic balance between the style and your examples - constrictive rules, and a freeing poem. Lovely.

C R Ward said...

Lost: What I found interesting was reading some of the Ghazals written by Americans that followed none of the rules, yet still had the audacity to call them Ghazals!

Jamie: Thank you! Actually, the Ghazal wasn't as hard to write as I first thought. You just need to take it one Sher at a time. :-)