'Ghazal' means 'dalliance'. I am having a dalliance with the ghazal. Specifically with the Persian ghazal in English.
I don't know nearly enough about it, but I'm learning more all the time, and even with the little I do know, I could go on at too great length about the wonder of it. Better to go to the Ghazal Page, and read what I've been reading.
The ghazal is a very old verse form, or is it a genre? It has its origins somewhere back in pre-Islamic Arabia. They come in many languages, and people did and do sing them. They need to express, or at least have an atmosphere of, intense longing, but this isn't always so. It's all about being bound to a very restrictive form and taking bounds of imaginative freedom. I think. If you're lucky.
The Persian version, the kind I'm trying to write, comes in couplets (shers), there is a refrain word or phrase (radif) at the very end of every couplet, and a monorhyme (qâfiya) that comes just before the refrain in each couplet. In the first couplet both rhyme and refrain occur in both lines, thereafter just in the second. The couplets should stand on their own like beads in a necklace, they don't make a linking whole exactly, you should be able to shuffle them around (except the first),without losing anything, and there shouldn't be any enjambement between the lines either. The meter and line length is optional but you should try to be consistent. Oh yes, and you work your name into the last line as a kind of signature to round it all off.
This is also a response to Totally Optional Prompts' 'Summer' prompt. I'm only moderately pleased with it; it doesn't have enough longing in it. I'm happy to brag that the Ghazal Page has accepted to publish next month two which I wrote in response to their challenge to write a ghazal with the radif of 'moon', and these I liked much better, partly also because I kept the meter very tight and consistent. I tried a freer style here, and feel a little uncomfortable with it within the very strict verse form.
Summer Ghazal - radif, midsummer.
Cold bare feet tucked under, dew still on the terrace tabletop from the shortest night, the night of midsummer,
The sun umbrella closed, the air is chilly, morning grey, reluctant, clouded light, in spite of midsummer.
Greenfinches rise and fall, the dunnock's song wavers, and larks still, out in the fields, climb into oblivion,
Yet the symphony of birdsong is quieter, nests empty, fledglings disowned and put to flight, now that its midsummer.
Stripes and lines of bladed maize, chocolate and lime in parallels and isobars, mapping how the land lies,
Drooping barley heads, yellowing and yearning, pastures bleaching near to white, although it's just midsummer.
Tired from mowing, weeding, the dust, heat and dryness, we walk at an amble now, taking it slow,
Lie down among grasses, between gangling oak trees, squint up at the sun, who's as high as a kite in the sky of midsummer.
Forget-me-nots forgotten, a fistful of goldfinches fly from purple, rollicking thistles, singing like a music box,
Faces of crimson, harlequin patterned and striped wings whirring, always filling with delight the days of midsummer.
A swallowtail gliding, ivory etched-black and jewelled, seeking out a caterpillar's cradle of carrot top or fennel,
Bees in the phacelia, no heatwave yet for hawkmoth nights, only the midges dancing like sprites at sunset this midsummer.
Lone crow goes 'kew kew kew' across a mottled evening sky, sweet williams coloured like cassis and strawberries and cream,
Sparrows scutter, gulls go home, Lucy sits on cushioned concrete, sips wine, cross-legged and cool and quiet, wondering at midsummer.
3 hours ago