Types of Poetry: The Ghazal
Length of the poem: Minimum of 10 lines
Metrical requirements: All lines must have the same number of syllables.
Rhyme Sequence: Both lines of the first couplet end with the same word. This word also ends line 4, 6, 8, 12, etc. The word preceding the repeating word follows a different rhyme scheme.
Ghazal, in Islamic literatures, genre of lyric poem, generally short and graceful in form and typically dealing with themes of love. As a genre the ghazal developed in Arabia in the late 7th century from the nasib, which itself was the often amorous prelude to the qaṣīdah (ode). Two main types of ghazal can be identified, one native to Hejaz (now in Saudi Arabia), the other to Iraq.
The ghazals by ʿUmar ibn Abī Rabīʿah (d. c. 712/719) of the Quraysh tribe of Mecca are among the oldest. Umar’s poems, based largely on his own life and experiences, are realistic, lively, and urbane in character. They continue to be popular with modern readers.
What became a classic theme of the ghazal was introduced by Jamīl (died 701), a member of the ʿUdhrah tribe from Hejaz. Jamīl’s lyrics tell of hopeless, idealistic lovers pining for each other unto death. These enormously popular works were imitated not only in Arabic but also in Persian, Turkish, and Urdu poetry until the 18th century. The genre is also present in many other literatures of Central and South Asia.
Of additional note is the work of Ḥāfeẓ (d. c. 1389/90), considered among the finest lyric poets of Persia, whose depth of imagery and multilayered metaphors revitalized the ghazal and perfected it as a poetic form. The ghazal was introduced to Western literature by German Romantics, notably Friedrich von Schlegel and J.W. von Goethe.
The ghazal (pronounced like “guzzle”) has a long and complex history, migrating throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East in its 1400 year history. The earliest ghazals date back to 7th century Arabia, shortly after the Islamic Caliphate was formed. Ghazals are romantic and tragic in nature, a tradition which many contemporary poets uphold.
The ghazal’s form and function varies somewhat between cultures, but the general rules for writing a ghazal are the following:
- Every line must have the same number of syllables. Your choice!
- Each stanza must be a couplet.
- There must be a minimum of 5 couplets.
- The first and second line of the poem end with the same word, called the radeef.
- Even numbered lines (Lines 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, etc.) also end with the radeef.
- The word before the radeef must also rhyme. It cannot rhyme with the radeef, and the same word cannot be used twice. This word is called the kaafiya.
- Each couplet must operate independently and as a whole. The couplet can stand alone as a poem, and it can form a larger poem, much like pearls on a string forming a necklace.
Ghazals are tricky and require each word to be carefully chosen, so a good ghazal may take a very long time to complete. Here’s a ghazal example, with notes demonstrating the above requirements.
Sample by Rumi
The sky has never seen such a moon, not even in its dreams,
No water could ever extinguish the fire of its light,
Look at my body, and look at my soul
From his cup of love, my soul is drunk, my body ruined
The tavern keeper became my heart’s companion
Love turned my blood into wine, and burned my heart
Classic Sample # 2
BY AGHA SHAHID ALI
Feel the patient’s heart
Pounding—oh please, this once—
I’ll do what I must if I’m bold in real time.
A refugee, I’ll be paroled in real time.
Cool evidence clawed off like shirts of hell-fire?
A former existence untold in real time …
The one you would choose: Were you led then by him?
What longing, O Yaar, is controlled in real time?
Each syllable sucked under waves of our earth—
The funeral love comes to hold in real time!
They left him alive so that he could be lonely—
The god of small things is not consoled in real time.
Please afterwards empty my pockets of keys—
It’s hell in the city of gold in real time.
God’s angels again are—for Satan!—forlorn.
Salvation was bought but sin sold in real time.
And who is the terrorist, who the victim?
We’ll know if the country is polled in real time.
“Behind a door marked DANGER” are being unwound
the prayers my friend had enscrolled in real time.
The throat of the rearview and sliding down it
the Street of Farewell’s now unrolled in real time.
I heard the incessant dissolving of silk—
I felt my heart growing so old in real time.
Her heart must be ash where her body lies burned.
What hope lets your hands rake the cold in real time?
Now Friend, the Belovèd has stolen your words—
Read slowly: The plot will unfold in real time.
A sample poem by Fledermausi
He murders children, rapes and steals, oh mad Joe Biden
He serves the Zionist swine that squeals, oh bad Joe Biden
He stole elections too, without shame
He is a puppet of the Neocon fame, oh sad Joe Biden
He started war in the Ukraine
Bloodthirsty tyrant’s accursed name’s mad Joe Biden
He’s sadist, deranged, senile
His courters are evil, mean and vile, oh bad Joe Biden
Your master, Satan waits for you in hell
The place where Jewish neocons will also dwell, you bad Joe Biden
Nothing in this article should be understood literally or taken seriously.