Tuesday 8 April 2014

talkinG, flirtinG, flatterinG the Gals

is for Ghazal

What can I say about the ghazal?  If poetry is chocolate for the soul, then the ghazal is the finest Belgian.

The ghazal is originally an Arabic form, and comes from a word that means “talking to women” which has diffused east into Persian and Indian poetry.  It has, like most Arab-Persian poetry a very rigid form, and is also restricted almost exclusively in its subject matter to love in its myriad forms, both of a Divine Being and of an earthly beloved.  

First let’s sum up the rules:

A ghazal’s not hard to write, let me show you how,
It’s an eastern poet’s delight, let me show you how.

Pick inks in shades of grey between hope and dismay,
keep your page subtle, off-white, let me show you how.

Your lines must eulogise the great love of your life,
but never be crudely trite, let me show you how.

That Love can be Divine, as well more earthly shine,
but not disclose it outright, let me show you how.

Learn to celebrate every aspect of heartache,
infinite yearning and slight, let me show you how.

Strict rules on metre and feet so keep just one beat
exact same all through is right, let me show you how.

The couplets as you like, you must write at least five,
only the rhyme rules are tight, let me show you how.

If you want you can sign your name in the last lines,
your ghazal’s done, now recite, let me show you how.

The rhyme word occurs before a phrase/word which remains constant throughout.  This is called the radif.  “Let me show you how” is the radif in the above example.  The first two lines rhyme and repeat the radif, after which the rhyme (and radif) occur on every odd line.  The first couplet is called the matla; the concluding couplet the maqta.  Often the (pen)name of the poet is woven into the maqta with creative wordplay, but this is not a mandatory condition.

And here’s my actual ghazal 

Let’s not talk about the moth and flame tonight
no strategies of an endless game tonight

too many dark wings beat beyond the window
but these lamps don’t  burn quite the same tonight

the drums pick up the prelude all else is still
neither anklets nor ankles to blame tonight

these feet have known what it is to crush the grass
but this heart was grass before you came tonight

there should be much more to life than rules of verse
more to metaphors than what they frame tonight

if you have loved me then you will let things be
and if you haven’t then what’s your claim tonight?

there are many verses that need writing out
but these fingers ache signing this name tonight

Posted for the A-Z Challenge.


  1. Lovely. I learned a new word too-ghazal Thanks for stopping by my blog...good luck with the A-Z Challenge!

  2. So much to learn. So little time. This seems like an intriguing art form.

    1. It is. There are poetry slams called "mushaira" where poets get together and recite ghazals and other forms. Very refined art form.

  3. Ah Nilanjana.... it would have been sufficient for me if you have just written your name to define ghazal..... You are an amazing poetess... loved your 'both ' ghazals :)

  4. Both the ghazals were beautiful. To be honest this is the first time I'm reading ghazals in english.i read one earlier today on another page too. ^.^

    1. Many poets have written ghazals in English, it is a very compelling form, not just for Asians :) Gets into your head, you're finished! :)

  5. Oh, I love it! Isn't this form used in some of the Arabian Nights verses? Really cool.
    Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Tales of colors
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    1. Thanks for pointing that out, didn't know about ghazals in Arabian Nights.

  6. Honestly, I never knew there were so many different types of poetry. Your posts are amazing, entertaining, and so wonderful - like going to poetry class! Thank you! Beautiful!

    1. More forms than varieties of chocolates, maybe even bread :) thanks for being here, Yolanda.