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Team Ghazal

By FAM, 14 July 2003

I recently spent a few days in a place called Harmonia in Slovakia in the stimulating presence of Anglo-Persian or Persian/English poet Mimi Kahlvati, who introduced us to the ghazal. The ghazal is a formal poem of Persian and Urdu origin. I really don’t want to get embroiled in a lot of theory here, or indeed issues of ethnic ownership, because I have found that there are considerable differences of opinion on issues like rigidity of form, the type and recurrence of rhymes, adaptation or appropriation of the poem into English, subject matter, even terminology.

My very first attempt at it, because, as always I hadn’t finished listening to the instructions, did not quite meet the formal requirements, but I still quite like the result and, what’s more, feel that that the form lends itself very well to this kind collaborative writing.

Since my return I have checked out the poetics of the ghazal and found that there is little agreement as to what it should look like in English (and, indeed, how it should be pronounced…). For all those who want more information on this, at its purest, rather demanding form, there are several websites that offer (unfortunately sometimes conflicting) information. For an overview check out this site.

To preempt purist criticism I would like to suggest that we use the model that Mimi presented as a starting point, which, in my opinion, works very well, especially in this framework.

The basic rules are as follows:

  1. Every contributor writes an unrhymed couplet, whose second line needs to end in the same words as the original couplet, which is the only one that has end rhymes (i.e. “when I write” or just “write” or a homophone, if the entire phrase is seen as too constraining).
  2. Every couplet should be aphoristically complete, a kind of mini-poem.

    Additionally, it is possible/allowed/recommended to:
  3. maintain a similar metre to the one in the preceding couplet. Ideally, the couplet should consist of a seven-foot iambic line (as the original couplet).
  4. use internal rhymes in the two lines

So here is a first couplet:

I’d love it to be clever, but how often it seems trite,
The stuff that ends up on the page before me when I write.

Your Contributions

I’d planned to send a postcard full of poetry and wit -

“Wish you were here” and “love” and “see you soon” is what I write.

I´ve written many books in different words,structures and styles-

But anyhow it looks it wasn´t what I´d like to write

All the words look around curiously making music-

maybe they´re feeling bound or trying something else to write

You shout and so I jump up in fright,

crossing through lines I took great pains to write.

I sit around and wish for imagination to take flight,

but it always stays grounded, when most I want to write.

Open doors and windows all and set the lamps alight

Air the dust that’s in my head before I start to write.

Here I sit looking on wondering at this shite

Wishing that the words I knew, were ever never right.

Blank the page and blank my mind when I sit down to write
but map the mind and mind the map and soon you’ll be all right

Blank the fired bullet, still holed my heart,
Welling ink, the sacrifice for this rite.

parents clapping, paper diplomas, confused
single-line marching puppets of strange rite.


This project no longer accepts new contributions.

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