June 18, 2009

CORA Diversity Roll Call #8

This week's CORA Diversity Roll Call asks us to post a poem unique to a particular country. I've decided to post about an ancient Persian form called a ghazal.

The ghazal originated in the 6th century C.E. and is often considered to be a romantic or erotic form. This form has taken on popularity among American, Canadian, and English writers, spurred on by Canadian poet John Thompson. However, the English-language versions are considered to be a far cry from the original Persian-language form.

The ghazal consists of a set of at least five couplets. In the traditional Persian form, it follows a strict rhyme scheme, maintain consistent meter, and also a stringent use of refrain. The refrain is the last word in the first couplet, and must used as the last word in all subsequent couplets. In addition, the poet should name hirself in the final couplet. English versions are not quite so strict about rhyme, meter, and and refrain.

I admit that I cannot read Arabic, and am only familiar with this form in English. However, I love it nonetheless. I'd like to post a ghazal written by Janet McAdams, a poetry professor at Kenyon College (my alma mater). The poem can be found at Story South.

Ghazal of Body

for Wendy Singer

Teach me the story of the sleepless body.
Even the past is ugly, living as it does in the thick cells of my body.

I was lonely, all the long winter. Skin
the poorest fence between the cold world and my body.

The fisherman with his sharp hook, his taut line, a rod he is proud of.
Come to shore, I call, I have a handful of bread that might be your body.

Lace, you breathed against the window, and the ice let go,
ran down the glass into the house’s quiet body.

She said: When I gave him up, when I gave back the baby,
there was an empty space in front of my body.

No writ, no photograph, no stone with rules. Only memory,
running like a current of blood, through the creek of my body.


More information about the ghazal at Wikipedia and Poets.org.

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