Ghazal for Monday

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:

When I Was a Boyimages-3

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 Rappoport

Lisa is also a letterpress printer–her website is

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!

12 thoughts on “Ghazal for Monday

      1. It follows the refrain, but you’ve missed the monorhyme. Example:

        Still Remain

        My eyes have dried up, but highs still remain,
        All dreams have died but skies still remain;

        Moon hides her face from Romeos of the sky,
        Clouds veil it but rays of moonrise still remain;

        Memories of your name faded from my mind,
        Those moments are gone, but good-byes still remain;

        My heart has healed, so has its every scar,
        All pains are over but cold sighs still remain;

        Not every falacy of thoughts can be defeated,
        Truth has a victory but some lies still remain;

        Gone are the questions that tormented my soul,
        But Whats, Ifs, Hows and few Whys still remain!

        You read all his fears from Waseem’s face,
        Albeit, the ones residing in his eyes still remain.

        Waseem A Malla
        Srinagar Kashmir

        Notice the words: highs, sighs, skies, byes, etc….

  1. Thanks–great to see this. But didn’t she try for the mono rhyme: sick, rhetoric, icky, cryptic, etc. Not exact but close?

  2. Actually ma’am ghazal is a strict form of art, whose content may be compromised but there are no compromises with its structure at all. I appreciate her attempt, but the monorhyme should always be followed immediately by the refrain. You just compare the 2 ghazals: one that I posted and the one you have posted. Or leave my ghazal. Take any of Agha Shahid’s. You’ll notice the refrain is almost always immediately following the monorhyme.

    The ghazal you posted has following endings:
    cliques and all,
    sick for them all,
    icky folderol, etc.

    Whereas the one I posted has:
    Whys still remain,
    Byes still remain,
    Sighs still remain, etc

    Just notice the things. You can also refer to Agha Shahid’s Call Me Ishmael Tonight and Ravishing Disunities.

  3. Thank you for your patience. I don’t pretend to any expertise with the ghazal. But I do have Ravishing Disunities, and there seem many examples that take liberties with the structure, starting with ones in the introduction. Perhaps they are not strict ghazals, but they are very interesting efforts.

    1. While I too am just a learner, no expertise I boast of. I know about the liberality utilised at some places, but to rule that out, I would like to quote names of Agha Shahid’s 2 ghazas: ‘In Arabic’ and ‘Tonight’. They were published with revisions in Call Me Ishmael Tonight, after being published in a previous anthology ‘The Country Without A Post Office’, after Agha Shahid perfected the art of Ghazal in ‘Ravishing Disunities’.

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