Tuesday Tryouts — Form: The Ghazal

19 Jul

9:04 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello everyone. All of you who ran screaming at the sight of ghazal get back in here. We can do this. I know, because I finally wrote an almost ghazal which all of you can do, and I am in the process of turning it into a full ghazal. I also know that a couple of you have written ghazals, so any help you can give us in comments will be appreciated by all.

The ghazal is a Persian poetic form. The original form was very simple: five to fifteen couplets using the same word [in blue] at the end of both lines of the first couplet, and an internal rhyme [in red],

Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips,
decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips.

and that word at the end of the second line of each subsequent couplet [in blue], as well as an internal rhyme [in red] that precedes the main word. [Patricia Smith, who wrote “Hip Hop Ghazal,” managed two internal rhymes. Spot the second one.]

As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak,
inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips.

with the poet’s name in the final couplet [in green].

Crying ’bout getting old—Patricia, you need to get up off
what God gave you. Say a prayer and start slinging. Cue hips.

The main themes were usually love or drinking wine.

Contemporary ghazals often leave out the poet’s name in the final couplet and the themes can be anything, as the poem just needs the couplets, which are complete thoughts on their own, but also all work together to explore a common theme.

Can you see why I not only ran from ghazals for a long time but dreaded trying to explain them?! But I promise that if you work in two steps it is not only doable, but, like any challenging form, fun. The way I finally managed it was to find the focus I wanted, which is the light when a star explodes. Light is my end word and that is all I worried about, a number of couplets with light as their focus. I did not worry about the internal rhyme. Now, I am working on an internal rhyme scheme and I have light at the end of both lines of the first couplet.

I will give you a couple of links, on the theory that the more you read and see the easier for your brain to wrap itself around the concepts. The first focuses mainly on the history and is from The next is from Robert Lee Brewer and includes his attempt. You can see how creative you can be to accomplish the internal rhyme. The final is the complete text of Patricia Smith’s ghazal. Note how she controls the reading with her punctuation choices.

I will see you Thursday for, even now, an unknown topic; Friday for our usual roundup; and, Tuesday for an open prompt. If you have questions, do ask; if you know anyone who would enjoy this, please click on various buttons below.

Alright, go to it. I want to see ghazals or ghazal attempts! Happy writing.


Posted by on 19/07/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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39 responses to “Tuesday Tryouts — Form: The Ghazal

  1. pmwanken

    19/07/2011 at 2:38 pm

    Oh my, ghazal! What ever am I to do!? ME!? RHYME!? 😉

    • margo roby

      19/07/2011 at 3:10 pm

      I know! Right, Paula? I never rhyme! But, internal rhyme is different somehow. And, oh nuts, I meant to put Mike’s link to a rhyming site in here. I’ll just put it in this comment and try and remember to start Thursday with it. Mike Patrick gave me a link to a safe site from which you can download a wonderful tool to help in rhyming:

      • vivienne Blake

        20/07/2011 at 1:22 am

        There’s another useful site for rhymes, which is instant, no downloading or space on the computer disc. It gives rhymes,in groups by number of syllables, plus synonyms and antonyms and links to another site for near rhymes.:

        I keep it open whenever I write rhyming poetry, and it’s much quicker to use than my Oxford rhyming Dictionary.

      • margo roby

        20/07/2011 at 12:56 pm

        Fantastic. Thanks, Viv.

  2. anjum wasim dar

    19/07/2011 at 2:47 pm

    Oh Dearest M your very first line sent me into a fit-of laughter of course and I doubled up.. still not fully recovered I am looking eagerly anxiously hopefully forward to the ‘class’ coming back with ‘lovely Ghazals’ …and I am sure you will get many with your motivation encouragement and style of ‘make them write’ -I will send one soon-

  3. vivienne Blake

    19/07/2011 at 3:37 pm

    Margo, there’s me thinking you were a nice kind and generous lady, then you hit us with an instrument of torture! I wrote one during Naporimo to a Poetic Asides prompt (I think that’s Robert Lee Brewer) But I’m willing, as ever, to try again.

    • margo roby

      19/07/2011 at 3:42 pm

      I’ve been warning you for weeks, Viv! I even cued with a Jaws reference one week. Besides, if you have written one, the second is a piece of cake [she said with a Gallic shrug], right? And, yes, Poetic Asides is Robert. I’ll go check out your first and look forward to your next. Next week is open 🙂 Hmmm. That doesn’t work as a palliative? That’s because you already know, as I do what we’re about to go through writing this!

  4. vivienne Blake

    19/07/2011 at 3:41 pm

    I’ve just re-read my daft ghazal and realise it’s nothing like your rules! Back to the drawing board.

  5. margo roby

    19/07/2011 at 3:42 pm

    Really? I’m heading over now. I’m back and I left a comment. If my instructions are incomprehensible anywhere, yell.

  6. wordsandthoughtspjs

    19/07/2011 at 4:14 pm

    Margo, Yikes! I thought you were nice?¿ I will give it a try, but be forewarned I am awful at sonnets of any type.


    • margo roby

      19/07/2011 at 4:39 pm

      Pamela, I cannot write a sonnet to save my life, but I managed a ghazal, so take heart!

      • vivienne Blake

        20/07/2011 at 5:20 am

        Margo, what’s so daunting about a sonnet? the rules are by a million miles easier to follow than a ghazal, and there are a zillion wonderful examples to inspire you! I challenge you to write one…

      • margo roby

        20/07/2011 at 12:53 pm

        Oy! Viv! I can follow the rules but end up, after a great deal of swearing, with a result that is stiff, but a challenge is a challenge. I’ll add you to the list. Yes, there is a list. I appear to incur challenges. I’m going to go with an Italian sonnet. Let me see…

  7. TheMsLvh

    20/07/2011 at 12:07 am

    Ok Margo, Here is my Ghazal. I also included some information on writting one of these poem, so my friends would know what I was up to. Hope I did ok. Please let me know what you think.
    California Ink in Motion

    I named it- In Tibet

    • margo roby

      20/07/2011 at 12:59 am

      Great ghazal, TheMsLvh! I left a comment on your site. Are you able to talk about your process? How do you set about writing a ghazal?

      Anyone reading the comments make sure you check it out.

      • TheMsLvh

        20/07/2011 at 1:11 am

        Wow Margo, I was not sure how it would be received. First I did some additional research which I included in the post. Then I thought about something I was passionate about so I could paint a picture in my mind. This task required to write from the heart and mind for me. Made a rough draft and edited it several times until I came up with this. Love your challenges. I just started writing poetry last april and because of people like you I am learning the art of poetry. Loving the education. I am the lucky one to have found your site.


      • margo roby

        20/07/2011 at 12:47 pm

        TheMsLvh, thank you for the process notes and the kind words. While I am glad to be twenty years on, how exciting to be at the beginning of a poetry life. I still remember how I felt. There is nothing quite like it. Am glad to be a part of your journey.


    • anjum wasim dar

      20/07/2011 at 1:05 am

      Great work-beautifully presented and well structured lines.-Excellent Idea and theme.A pleasure to read

  8. vivienne Blake

    20/07/2011 at 3:23 am

    • anjum wasim dar

      20/07/2011 at 3:51 pm

      Dear Viv Your woeful attempt is superbly hilarious, great lines exressive of your true feelings and thoroughly enjoyable.Beautiful word choice-like’ largo’ argot’ masquerading’ wonderful-took me back to the Ye Olde English period of my Literature Studies.I love the study of Word Origins and I really enjoyed this ”Ghastly-Not -at-all- Ghazal”

  9. anjum wasim dar

    20/07/2011 at 11:00 am

    No Idea

    ‘No idea how am I supposed to take it’
    What is expected, and how am I to make it?

    I don’t know if it’s literal or figurative
    I’ve never tried it before, cannot fake it.

    I’ve never known anyone so , before
    Its regard and love cannot mistake it

    Who believes in sincere clear emotions
    No time, forget it, its foolish, just shake it.

    Life is full of blue wounds and heartaches
    My heart bleeds; no more can one break it.

    Stars give Light, but reflected from others
    Firedrakes breathe it hot, cannot intake it,

    Regret not, faces prepare to meet faces
    It’s a matter of time, all will undertake it.

    Will I ever meet a beloved fair, so rare
    Impossible dream, fettered, lyke-wake it

    So many die, so few honored, acclaimed
    Love a many splendored thing, uptake it.

    Of all good deeds do your best Anjum
    Let not your spirit die, sing to it, wake it.

    sometimes what we say as random expressions, our thoughts and ideas and feelings so innocently stated become the cues for great poems- m

    • margo roby

      20/07/2011 at 12:50 pm

      Another ghazal for me to study. Thank you, Anjum! I love the phrase ‘blue wounds’ and the final stanza when you address yourself.


      • anjum wasim dar

        20/07/2011 at 3:25 pm

        URDU (last two lines from one of my urdu ghazals)

        falak pe to azal se ho roshan Anjum
        Jahan ka andhera mitana, roshni yahan karna’

        you have been brightening the skies for ever Anjum
        remove the darkness on Earth, spread the Light here.

        anjum: star
        falak: skies -celestial spheres
        azal: eternity, the beginning
        jahan: world
        andhera: darkness
        mitana: erase-rub away/wash away
        roshni: light
        yahan: here
        karna: to do
        roshan: well lit

  10. TheMsLvh

    20/07/2011 at 11:17 am

    I Loved Your Ghazal anjum wasim dar! Very very good, loved the flow, concept and well, just everything!

    • anjum wasim dar

      20/07/2011 at 3:13 pm

      Dear TheMsLvh Im happy that you enjoyed what I wrote, I write in Urdu (my native language) and I love ghazals (for listening and singing mostly)-this is really my first attempt in this form in English.Thanks to Margo for motivating and encouraging me enough to move on.

    • anjum wasim dar

      20/07/2011 at 3:27 pm

      Thank you TheMsLvh

  11. vivienne Blake

    20/07/2011 at 11:43 am

    Anjum, your urdu site was incredibly helpful, even though I didn ‘t go so far as to learn urdu! It was interesting to read the history, Thank you,

  12. anjum wasim dar

    20/07/2011 at 10:48 pm

    Tuesday guzar gaya ghazal bhi keh di gayee
    likho ghazal sab, margo ye keh kr chali gayee

  13. Mike Patrick

    20/07/2011 at 11:35 pm

    Okay, Margo. Here is my attempt. I’m so far out of my comfort zone, I feel like I’m wearing a thong at the North Pole, but I don’t hate you–yet.

    • margo roby

      21/07/2011 at 12:46 am

      Yet, Mike? I’ll have to go look at my list of forms and find out when I might be in danger again. Love your simile. Am off to look at your ghazal.


  14. pmwanken

    22/07/2011 at 1:43 am

    margo ~

    ok. here’s my first ever attempt at a Ghazal (along with a few other prompts for extra challenge)…

    …be gentle…


  15. wordsandthoughtspjs

    25/07/2011 at 8:07 pm

    Margo, I have tried to write two different ghazals, which turned out like something kindergartener might’ve written. I won’t give up, but at this point it is going to take me much longer (than I thought). When I have one that resembles an adult bit of writing. I will let you know.


    • margo roby

      25/07/2011 at 9:23 pm

      Pamela, I felt your angst reaching out all week! Bless you for trying it and not giving up. The next few weeks will be more relaxing.



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