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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

17 September, 2007

The Ghazal

What is a ghazal?

For the uninitiated (like me, so forgive me, oh scholarly ones, if I mess up any of this explanation), here are the basics.

• A short poem of between five and fifteen couplets in the same metre.

• Always opens with a rhyming couplet called matla. The opening couplet of the ghazal is always representative. It sets the mood and tone.

• The rhyme of the opening couplet is repeated in the second line of the other verses. So, the rhyming pattern is AA, BA, CA, DA, and so on. But it's not that simple.

• The entire ghazal uses the same rhyme and refrain. The rhyme (called the qaafiyaa) must always immediately precede the refrain (or radif). The refrain may be a word or phrase.

• Each couplet is a unit which can stand on its own, as a sher in its own right.

• There can be no enjambement across the couplets in a strict ghazal; each couplet must be a complete sentence (or several sentences) in itself.

• In the maqta, which is the last sher of a ghazal, the poet's takhallus, or pen name, traditionally appears, often in very creative ways.

This is what a ghazal looks like:

Couplet one:

------------------------------ rhyme A (Qaafiyaa)+ refrain (Radif)
------------------------------ rhyme A (Qaafiyaa)+ refrain (Radif)

Couplet Two, Three, & so on:

------------------------------ rhyme A (Qaafiyaa)+ refrain (Radif)

References and further reading (Some of these did not appear in the original post)

(Thanks Annie, who suggested this exercise, and provided the first three links.)

What is a Ghazal? by Abhay Avachat

Elements of a Ghazal, in Urdu Poetry Archive

Urdu Ghazal: an introduction, by K C Kanda in Urdu Poetry Archive

Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001 a Kashmiri-American poet who wrote original ghazals in English, and translated Faiz Ahmed Faiz)

Basic Points about the Ghazal, by Agha Shahid Ali

The Wikipedia Ghazal page

Jeet Thayil's Ghazal in Salt Magazine.

That Bastard Ghazal, by Andy Weaver, in

The Ghazal: An Inevitable Unity, by Jenny Burdge in Trilopia

The link to the original post, below, will take you to a Ghazal exercise on the forum.



Blogger H R Venkatesh said...

Didn't know where to pose this, so here goes - where could I get to buy a copy of "stories at the coffee table". Tried, but didn't work.

19 September, 2007 01:12  
Blogger Saima Afreen said...

This post is really informative I must say. The links given are also useful. The mastery of ghazal lies in the pithiness of its shers. Each sher is a pearl holding the vast ocean of deep philosophy in its core. These glimmering pearls are best kept in the depths of inner eye that turn darkness into ink oozing from a poet's pen.

Can we have a post on Rubaiyat?

15 May, 2008 14:55  
Blogger nerinossa said...

This is what a ghazal looks like:Couplet one:------------------------------ rhyme A (Qaafiyaa)+ refrain (Radif)------------------------------ rhyme A (Qaafiyaa)+ refrain (Radif)Couplet Two, Three, & so on:--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- rhyme A (Qaafiyaa)+ refrain (Radif)References and further reading (Some of these did not appear in the original post)(Thanks Annie, who suggested this exercise, and provided the first three links

23 July, 2008 22:44  

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