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Rachel-K
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The Ghazal

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Wikipedia says of the ghazal, that it is "a poetic form consisting of couplets which share a rhyme and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. Etymologically, the word literally refers to "the mortal cry of a gazelle." The animal is caled Ghizaal, from which the English word gazelles stems, or Kastori haran (where haran refers to deer) in Urdu. Ghazals are traditionally expressions of love, separation and loneliness, for which the gazelle is an appropriate image. A ghazal can thus be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain."

As a Westerner who is mostly unfamiliar with the form, I recognize the ghazal as being a series of pairs of lines that end with the same word. The whole poem often doesn't seem to be a whole poem, but a collection of small beautiful pieces that share something in common. It is a difficult form to understand if you have grown up with poetry only in English.

The definition Shirin reads at the start of chapter 24 says, "Five couplets, at the minimum, but no more than twelve, usually. The first couplet establishes a rhyme follwed by a refrain, a scheme repeated by the second line of each succeeding couplet. Each couplet should stand on its own, but must also be part of the whole. At the end, the poet often invokes himself."

Are you familiar with the poetic form—the ghazal? If so, where have you encountered this form? Do you have a favorite ghazal that you could share? What do you think of the idea of the ghazal as a symbol for Isaac’s situation?

Message Edited by rkubie on 09-27-2007 05:29 PM

Message Edited by rkubie on 09-30-2007 10:48 PM
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DaliaSofer
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Re: The Ghazal

For anyone interested in knowing more about the ghazal, here is an excerpt from a little piece I wrote some time ago for the Academy of American Poets:

Traditionally invoking melancholy, love, longing, and metaphysical questions, ghazals are often sung by Iranian, Indian, and Pakistani musicians. The form has roots in seventh-century Arabia, and gained prominence in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century thanks to such Persian poets as Rumi and Hafiz. In the eighteenth-century, the ghazal was used by poets writing in Urdu, a mix of the medieval languages of Northern India, including Persian. Among these poets, Ghalib is the recognized master.

Other languages that adopted the ghazal include Hindi, Pashto, Turkish, and Hebrew. The German poet and philosopher Goethe experimented with the form, as did the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

Indian musicians such as Ravi Shankar and Begum Akhtar popularized the ghazal in the English-speaking world during the 1960s. However, it was the poet Agha Shahid Ali who introduced it, in its classical form, to Americans. Ali compared each ghazal couplet to "a stone from a necklace," which should continue to "shine in that vivid isolation."

To read the whole piece, follow this link: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5781


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Rachel-K
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Re: The Ghazal

Dalia,

Thanks so much for this. Here's a link to the anthology of ghazals that Ali did:




Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English
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Fozzie
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Re: The Ghazal



DaliaSofer wrote:
To read the whole piece, follow this link: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5781



Thanks for this helpful link, Dalia.

I had not heard of the ghazal prior to reading your book. I thought I recalled Isaac thinking or reciting a ghazal somewhere in the book, but I can't find it now. Did he?
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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DaliaSofer
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Re: The Ghazal

I'm glad you found the link helpful!

Yes, Isaac does recite or remember ghazals on numerous occasions. He does so in prison, when he is challenged by the other prisoners regarding his materialistic pursuits (page 101). The poem, by Hafez, emphasizing the fleeting nature of earthly existence and the happiness derived from simple pleasures, manages to unite the prisoners and triggers a group recitation. This isn't so unusual in Iran, where several Medieval poets--including Khayyam, Hafez, Rumi, and Saadi--are revered; most people, regardless of social class or education, are able to spontaneously recite their favorite verses.

Isaac again remembers a ghazal in prison (page 239), and later when thinking of his youth in Shiraz, where he used the Divan of Hafez for divination. (It is believed that when struggling with a question, one can turn to Hafez for an "oracle." A question is asked, the book of poems is opened, and the verse that the eye turns to is supposed to contain the answer...)

Hafez was from Shiraz and he is buried there. (In fact he is known as Hafez-e-Shirazi--or Hafez of Shiraz.) The nickname "Hafez," which means "memorizer," was allegedly given to him because he had memorized the Koran by heart. This idea appeals to me, and without realizing it, I had Isaac get out of trouble once by reciting Hafez (in the prison courtyard) and again by reciting the Koran, which, like Hafez, he had memorized...

Finally, a note about translations. As the linked piece explains, it is very difficult to translate a ghazal failthfully (it is common to either lose the meaning or the poetic form--or both). I finally opted to use translations by Arthur John Arberry and by Gertrude Bell.


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Fozzie
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Re: The Ghazal - Pages



DaliaSofer wrote:
Yes, Isaac does recite or remember ghazals on numerous occasions. He does so in prison, when he is challenged by the other prisoners regarding his materialistic pursuits (page 101). The poem, by Hafez, emphasizing the fleeting nature of earthly existence and the happiness derived from simple pleasures, manages to unite the prisoners and triggers a group recitation. This isn't so unusual in Iran, where several Medieval poets--including Khayyam, Hafez, Rumi, and Saadi--are revered; most people, regardless of social class or education, are able to spontaneously recite their favorite verses.

Isaac again remembers a ghazal in prison (page 239), and later when thinking of his youth in Shiraz, where he used the Divan of Hafez for divination. (It is believed that when struggling with a question, one can turn to Hafez for an "oracle." A question is asked, the book of poems is opened, and the verse that the eye turns to is supposed to contain the answer...)





Thanks for the pages references, Dalia. I went back to reread those sections. I couldn't find them when flipping through the book because I thought that the ghazals were offset from the rest of the text by spacing and indentation, but they weren't.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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Fozzie
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Re: The Ghazal



DaliaSofer wrote:
The nickname "Hafez," which means "memorizer," was allegedly given to him because he had memorized the Koran by heart. This idea appeals to me, and without realizing it, I had Isaac get out of trouble once by reciting Hafez (in the prison courtyard) and again by reciting the Koran, which, like Hafez, he had memorized...





I chuckled when I read this comment. After I had read your comment that Hafez memorized the Koran, I immediately thought of Isaac and how he did that in prison. As I continued to read your comment, I was surprised to read that "without realizing it," you had Isaac do the same! I assumed that would have been planned. The way the subconscious mind works is fascinating.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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Rachel-K
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Re: The Ghazal

Hi all,

A ghazal on Poetry Daily today! It's a wonderful site, if there are fans of poetry out there. I have it set as my homepage, so when I get online in the morning, a new poem pops up--the poems chosen are culled from current issues of small lit magazines.

I'm including the link here, because I'm not sure about the copyright issues of cutting and pasting the poem itself. If you want to see the ghazal, make sure you're looking at the poem for Friday the 19th.


http://www.poems.com/today.php
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WildCityWoman
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Re: The Ghazal

Ghazal . . . I've attempted a few of these poems myself, but they don't look as good as when others do it.
 
It took me a long time to realize I wasn't supposed to be pronouncing the word 'gaz-AL' . . . it's 'guzzle', of course.
 
Carly :-0
 
Carly

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