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. Continue reading “Ghazal for Monday”

Four Poets

“Luxury is who you’re with,” my friend Maureen said years ago, and one of the true luxuries in my life is to be part of a group of poets I respect who meet regularly to discuss our work. Two of the poets I met at the Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop in 2001, and we have been in various permutations of this group since then. About five years ago, we morphed into this current group of four. We manage to meet once a month despite the myriad events that conspire against it. By now we know each others’ work and are comfortable enough and know enough about our strengths and weaknesses that our criticism is both honest and valuable.

The four of us started hosting a Sunday Salon, dubbed Salon 77, on an irregular basis. Lisa, the letterpress printer among us, prints the invitation, and we each get ten. Poets, writers, musicians, artists, sculptors and appreciators all show up, eat, talk, and have a few minutes each to show their work. Here is a blurry shot of us from the first Salon in 2009.

The next Salon is this Sunday, and as most of you won’t be there, here’s a sample of our work from yesterday’s poetry group:

Continue reading “Four Poets”

Two more poems from Saturday’s Salon

Both of these are by Lisa Rappoport:

Czeslaw Milosz Buys Lion or Tiger Urine at the Oakland Zoo

—or so it has been reported: or rather, so goes the report
of his intent, unaccompanied by any definitive evidence
of whether he did so, or no. He loved the deer, he loved
their musky attendance at his dwelling in exile on the Western
coast of this country, in the hills above Berkeley, at the edge
of the regional park called Tilden. But he loved also his garden,
the trees, the new life that both burgeoned and was encouraged
to burgeon; and the deer loved these also, but after their fashion,
which tended toward destruction. So other than building
eight-foot-high fences to exclude the visitors, the best
modern alternative to discourage their appetite
was to spread the urine of their enemies
about the perimeter of the property.

Although I cannot say whether the intended purchase was made,
the end of the story is that on the morning when news arrived
of Milosz’s faraway death in his once homeland, deer congregated
in the small yard, more than had ever been seen there. I like
to imagine them pushing and milling, crowding, stamping, bidding
a cervine farewell to a poet and a century, creating presence
in a place of absence.

The Death of Longing

In that alternate universe
where desperation is an aphrodisiac,
happiness is visible, palpable, and smells
like bubblegum; but poetry has shriveled
and you see people barfing all day long
from their disgust at reading, viewing,
and living a life of schmaltz. The word
longing means going for a lengthy walk,
and to miss someone is as rare and outmoded
as to contract a case of the vapors. Hearts
don’t break, they bend, like malleable rubber
balls that bounce without bruising themselves
or their targets. The more one is hurt, the more
confidence he gains, and slights are regarded
as compliments and exercise opportunities. Instead of
black holes physicists discuss white mounds: places
of infinite lightness, outside of the pull of gravity,
which reflect and turn back all that approaches.
The few remaining poets write mainly about latitude, longitude
and trigonometry, and are read only by the few remaining
librarians, those specialists whose job descriptions do not forbid
the reading of banned books. Some inhabitants have never returned
from their youthful longings.