Gilded Serpent presents...
Is A Ghazal?
is a word in Arabic that means talking to women.
A ghazal is a Persian poem of couplets, or “Shers,”
in which each of the couplets can be considered a complete poem
in itself. A ghazal may have five or more sets of
couplets, or shers. The ghazal originated
in Arabia and traveled to the Middle East and India, and lately
to America. Often, one might set Ghazals to music
and include many popular songs. They are also intended to
be read as poetry.
a musical form, ghazals have existed for several centuries.
Many of the songs heard in Indian cinema until the mid 1970's
were ghazals. In India, ghazals of singing had accompaniments
of ragas--sitar and tabla. They are still very popular.
One famous singer of ghazals is Habib Wali Mohammed.
can be on any subject, the tone of ghazals is traditionally
one of longing and its topic is most often love. In addition,
ghazals can be in any language– including English.
Some English writers of ghazals include Adrienne
Rich, Denise Levertov and Robert
Bly. There are numerous translations into English of
Urdu ghazals and ghazals from other languages, but it can be difficult
to get the whole picture from a translation of what, exactly,
comprises a ghazal.
of each couplet must have the same meter and length (the same
number of syllables). In addition, the first couplet, or
“matla,” establishes the rhyme and refrain of the
entire ghazal. The rhyme and refrain occurs in both lines
of the first couplet, and must repeat in the second line of each
following couplet. Therefore, the rhyming scheme would be:
aa, ba, ca, da, ea, etc. There is also a complex (sometime)
requirement of repetition of the entire first line of the first
couplet and second line of the first couplet in different places
towards the end of the poem. The ending couplet, or “maqta,”
often contains the name or nom de plume of the poet.
is a famous ghazal by Agha Shahid Ali,
a Kashmiri-American poet who was a finalist for the National Book
Award, who died in 2001. Although ghazals traditionally
do not have titles, they sometimes become known by their refrains.
One may find this poem by Ali, entitled “Tonight”
in his volume of poetry, “Call Me Ishmael Tonight: a
Book of Ghazals (2004)”. In this poem, the
first two lines are the matla. The last two lines
are the maqta, containing the poet’s name, Shahid.
The refrain is the word “tonight’, and the rhymes that occur before
the word “tonight” are: spell, expel, tell, cell, fell, infidel,
spell, Hell, knell, infidel, Jezebel, gazelle, farewell, and Ishmael.
are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?
Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?
Those “Fabrics of Cashmere--“
”to make Me beautiful--“
“Trinket”-- to gem– “Me to adorn– How– tell”-- tonight?
I beg for haven: Prisons,
let open your gates–
A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.
God’s vintage loneliness
has turned to vinegar–
All the archangels– their wings frozen– fell tonight.
Lord, cried out
the idols, Don’t let us be broken
Only we can convert the infidel tonight.
Mughal ceilings, let
your mirrored convexities
multiply me at once under your spell tonight.
He’s freed some fire
from ice in pity for Heaven.
He’s left open– for God– the doors of Hell tonight.
In the heart’s veined
temple, all statues have been smashed
No priest in saffron’s left to toll its knell tonight
God, limit these punishments,
there’s still Judgment Day–
I’m a mere sinner, I’m no infidel tonight.
Executioners near the
woman at the window.
Damn you, Elijah, I’ll bless Jezebel tonight.
The hunt is over, and
I hear the Call to Prayer
fade into that of the wounded gazelle tonight.
My rivals for your love–
you’ve invited them all?
This is mere insult, this is no farewell tonight.
And I, Shahid, only
am escaped to tell thee–
God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.
This is the
most achingly beautiful ghazal I have read yet. It
is also a perfect ghazal form. Many of the American English
writers of ghazals do not follow all the traditional rules,
and they call their ghazals “open ghazals” or “non-traditional
ghazals.” Adrienne Rich has written
several series of ghazals, including “Ghazals:
Homage to Ghalib" and "The Blue Ghazals,"
both of which are included in her collected poems, The
Fact of a Doorframe (W.W. Norton 2002).
- Ali, Aga
Shahid, Call Me Ishmael Tonight, (W.W. Norton, 2003).
- Ali, Aga
Shahid, “Basic Points about the Ghazal,” , http://members.aol.com/poetrynet/ghazals/
Abhay, “What Is a Ghazal?”, posted on rec.music.Indian.misc
Harsangeet Kaur, “The Ghazal-Then and Now), appeared as “Ghazas;
Alive and Well,” in LYNX VOL.XII: NO.2,1997
Tina, Kathwari, Rafiq and Shankar, Ravi, Eds., Poetry Feature,
Asian American: http://nycbigcitylit.com/sep2001/contents/PoetryFeature.html#Ghazal
Uma, “Urdu Ghazal, an Introduction,” http://www.cs.memphis.edu/%7Eramamurt/ghazal.html
Adrienne, The Fact of a Doorframe, W.W. Norton 2002.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
12-16-04 Raven of the
Night: Dancer’s Allegory for New Year’s Eve 2005
of the Night was the name by which he thought of her–but
feathers? Raven had none! She was the castle’s Dancer of
Dreams and aspired to become Jester of the Court...
Belly Dance in Israel
by Orit Maftsir
dancers are the hottest trend at the moment, unlike the totally
frozen attitudes towards the Arab culture in Israel.
Belly Dancer of the Year 2005 Grand
Dancer, more Duos, Trios & Troupes photos by Monica
May 28, 2005, San Ramon, California.
6-18-05 Gitaneria Arabesca:
A Different Approach to the Student Recital by Vashti,
Photography by John Steele
the student recital. There is nothing like watching fledglings
leaving the nest, discovering their own creative wings and flying
off into the wonderful world of belly dance.
Rakkasah West Festival
2005 Photos- Saturday & Sunday Page 2 photos by GS Staff
Belly Dancer of the Year 2005 Page
1 Duos, Trios & Troupes photos by Monica
May 28, 2005, San Ramon, California.