I have been reading about and playing with the poetic form called a Ghazal. The rules of the Ghazal are that it is an unspecified number of couplets. The first couplet sets out a repeating word or phrase in first line, and repeats that word or phrase at the end of every couplet. The word before the repeated words should rhyme in every couplet. And in the final couplet, the author should use their own name. The couplets should each stand alone. This form comes to us from the Arabic, and according to Agha Shahid Ali’s book, Ravishing Disunities, at poetry readings the audience participates in the form by calling out the repeated phrase as it occurs in each couplet. Here’s one by Lisa Rappoport:
I was afraid of the girls: their cliques and all
that gossiping made me sick for them all.
Their willingness to wear dresses
showed they bought into the rhetoric and all.
Worthwhile activities like climbing trees or
were severely hampered by such icky folderol.
Submitting to unfair constraints was a sign of insanity.
To those girls, my refusal was cryptic above all.
I never had an imaginary friend, only an imagined
boy self. Girls got the short end of the stick is all.
I tested my physical courage all the time,
while fearing my own destiny, private, public: all.
The stirrings of sex made me abandon boyishness.
But I never betrayed the flame that flickers at all.
Heaped with protective coals, it smolders on and on.
Lisa–Jerry, your life emerges from an alembic. Fire is all.
Lisa is also a letterpress printer–her website is http://littoralpress.com/web/.
And if you want to hear Dar Williams take on when she was a boy….
Oh, and for you regular readers, Ravishing Disunities was the book I couldn’t get when I came up with the Erotic Poems book for last week’s poem. Now I have them both!