Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Haiku, Ghazals and Juxtapositions...

With all this talk about haiku recently, as well as an article in National Geographic about Persia, I was thrown to another form based on juxtapositions--the ghazal.

For readers not familiar with the form, a brief description. A ghazal is a series of couplets, the second line of each ending in a specific rhyme and refrain. The opening couplet ends in both lines in this rhyme/refrain combination, almost setting it up for the reader/listener. In addition, each couplet must be distinct from the others--the usual description is "beads in a necklace"--where they could work on their own as a seperate unit, but work within a structure for a complete whole.

A more developed description by Agha Shahid Ali (the poet attributed with brining the ghazal to the west) can be found here. Here is an example of a ghazal he himself wrote.

I have led a fairly uninteresting life, punctuated with moments of intense feeling, passion and longing. I cannot write the traditional, confessionalist-inspired, Iowa-derivative narrative poem, nor do I feel like constantly inventing or constructing narratives to appeal to this style of writing. I've written them, some have been published, anthologized, etc., but there has to be more. I'm much more interested in the non-narrative poetic forms: riddles, haiku, tanka, ghazals, achipelagos, etc. What is key about all these forms is the juxtaposition--laying two things next to each other or on top of each other to resonate against each other and cause a reaction or profound moment for the reader. Repeating this pattern, the author can take the reader's hand and walk them through a series of emotions, or have them journey deeper into a specific emotion, much like Virgil walking Dante through hell. If only I could be that successful... ;-)

So, that being said, a contest announcement. The Ghazal Page has recently had two contests, each one asking poets to write ghazals based around a specific refrain--"clouds and rain" and "the moon". My poem (titled "Ghazal" in accordance with the form) and J. E. Stanley's "Lunaticus (in D minor)" were both selected for the moon contest. The new refrain is "sugar." The deadline is October 1, so there's still time to put together a solid piece. I'd love to see what you guys come up with, even if it's only a couplet or two. Perhaps a collaborative piece could be thrown together and submitted to the contest? Let me know what you think.


J.E. Stanley said...

Links to a few excellent ghazals:

"Ghazal" by Joshua Gage

"Ghazal with Smoke" by Joshua Gage
(Scroll down to November 11, 2002)

"Two Ghazals" by Joshua Gage

"Tonight" by Agha Shahid Ali.
(Scroll down to the middle of the page)

Rock & roll & write on,


Greg said...

i really like Joshua's ghazal at Fables. it's got great rhythm, and the poem draws you right into it.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau