Posts Tagged ‘ghazal’

Join the Poetry Friday round-up with Heidi at my juicy little universe.

What was I thinking when I challenged my Inklings writing group to write a ghazal for this month’s challenge? Woah, who knew there were so many rules/ guidelines? I had attended the Poetry Foundation’s Summer Teachers Institute and watched a presentation about using repetition in poetry. The presenter talked about two poetry forms, the villanelle and the ghazal. So I said to myself that in order to teach these forms, I needed to write in these forms.

The ghazal is an ancient Arabic and Persian language poetic form. It has couplets (two-line stanzas) that end with repeated end words or phrases. You can also add that traditionally the author’s name appears in the last couplet.

Looks easy, right? Well, this definition was somewhat incomplete. At Poets.org, there is this more complete definition. And Molly directed us to this guidance on Tweetspeak. The most help, as always, came from the Inkling group’s dedication to the craft of poetry and to each other. Their critique was invaluable.

I wanted my poem to say something, to express my longing as a grandmother for the grandmother I never knew. This portrait of her was painted in the 1940’s when my mother was a young girl. It now hangs in my dining room, life-size.

Grandmother’s Song

She never held me in her arms long to sing.
Death took her breath–she was not wrong to sing.

Within her eyes a lullaby still stares
from a frame to invite me along to sing.

Her portrait-hands caress violin strings;
Like the songbird’s voice, they echo strong to sing.

Now I wonder if an angel sings to me.
I want to know whose song to sing.

I have her name–Margaret–a spelling tune,
like a young child, I know I belong to sing. 

Margaret Simon, ghazal, all rights reserved.

Click on the links to read more ghazals by our amazing poetry group.

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading

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"I would love to be a writer if only someone would give me confidence!"

“I would love to be a writer if only someone would give me confidence!”

Why do I write what I do?
I often tell my students that the only way to get good at something is to practice. We all would rather a short cut. I know I would. I wish that I had stuck with writing when I was younger. I wrote often as a teen, and I was bad at it. I unearthed one of these diaries, “I want to be a writer, if only someone would give me confidence.” And as any writer knows, it takes a great deal of confidence. Confidence must come from within, though, not from someone else. But it also takes perseverance. And maybe I don’t have enough of that because I turned to self-publishing for Blessen and for Illuminate. Both projects have brought me great courage. Now I feel more confident in writing for others to read. I trust my voice and allow her to say what she will.

Writing a blog is about connecting. Through this format, I connect to other teachers, poets, authors, and readers.

I write poetry because it’s my passion. My passion comes from falling in love with poets. They are some of the coolest people on this earth. They can say what I meant to say and so much better. I want to be like Mary Oliver when I grow up, walk my dog along the bayou and write beautiful words. I believe the world is more beautiful, more meaningful, more pleasurable because of poetry.

How does my writing process work?

I have different writing processes for different types of writing. For blogging, I just do it. I save a draft, re-read a few times, and publish.

For poetry, I am usually attracted by a prompt. That prompt can come from anywhere: an image, a presenter in Wordlab, a fellow blogger’s post, or the site of a hawk flying over the highway.

Fiction is tougher for me. I have a strong resistance to writing it. Blessen took 6 years. I started it in a writing workshop on fiction writing. I had many starts and stops, months would go by. And now, I have readers asking for her sequel. I just can’t get myself to open the document. What am I waiting for?

Some of my favorite books on the writing life include:
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
Views from a Window Seat by Jeannine Atkins (Reading presently and love how it feels like having coffee with a best friend.)

My National Poetry Month commitment is to write a poem a day using ABCs of forms, techniques, and tools. Today is brought to you by the letter G for ghazal. (pronounced “guzzle”) I am writing my ghazal in a form borrowed from a poet-friend, James McDowell. He writes using three line stanzas rather than the traditional couplet. This ghazal form is credited to Robert Bly and is called a ramage to the Mideastern ghazal, or American ghazal. “In its classic form, each stanza stands alone–has its own landscape, so to speak–and the theme of the poem is never stated. So the reader has much more to do than he would be used to in the contemporary English poem. When the ghazal has its full development, each stanza in a given poem ends with the same word.”

I wrote this loosely formed ghazal to a postcard sent to me by Laura Shovan. It ends with the Pantone color candy pink.

postcard candy pink sky

…candy pink sky

Purple-tipped clouds stroke the air
while the red-tailed hawk soars high,
a child points to azure sky.

Clipping waves ride the ocean
cradle the rocking schooner
air balloons a sail through sky.

Creator draws a straight line
separates water from air,
holds horizons of dazzling sky.

I am not old enough to
remember how war feels,
bombs exploding erase sky.

Heaven is here in colors.
Our eyes can see the rainbow
when the sun chases storms from the sky.

Every story has its lesson,
the one for Margaret is this:
Throw confetti to the wind.
Celebrate a candy pink sky.

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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Join Poetry Friday with Diane at Random Noodling

Join Poetry Friday with Diane at Random Noodling

G is for ghazal. I am no expert in poetry. I have a degree in elementary education and a masters for teaching gifted. I have only studied poetry on my own through workshops, reading, and internet research. My list of publications in poetry is short. But I do enjoy trying out new forms. One of the ways I try out writing new poems is by consulting with an expert.

My chosen expert for ghazal is J.K. McDowell. Jim published a book of poems that were all written in the ghazal form. I met Jim at a poetry reading last year and again at a wordlab a few months ago. We are now Facebook friends.

To write this ghazal, I read Jim’s book, Night, Mystery, & Light, published by Hiraeth Press. I used his style of 3 lines that together form a unit that could stand alone as a poem. I collected some of his lines and words. When I later researched on the internet, the definition confused me.

From Poets.org “The ghazal is composed of a minimum of five couplets—and typically no more than fifteen—that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous. Each line of the poem must be of the same length, though meter is not imposed in English. The first couplet introduces a scheme, made up of a rhyme followed by a refrain. Subsequent couplets pick up the same scheme in the second line only, repeating the refrain and rhyming the second line with both lines of the first stanza. The final couplet usually includes the poet’s signature, referring to the author in the first or third person, and frequently including the poet’s own name or a derivation of its meaning. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5781#sthash.zcpOLhm5.dpuf”

Jim McDowell's book

Jim McDowell’s book

I asked Jim about the couplet and rhyming that I didn’t see in his style. This was his response: “The tradition form is two lines of 18. This can be rough in English, so Bly does three lines of 12. Six stanzas is also a Bly innovation, but common. Hafiz has some pretty long ones, he is the Master of the ghazal but not the Ladinsky translations, they are more free form. My limited understanding is to not rhyme but repeat a special word. Also the last stanza can refer to or address the poet. In a higher form the poem even begins and ends with the same word. I still think the most important is that each stanza be a stand alone poem, the leaping and multiple threads and flow the most powerful.”

Now both of these definitions sound rather scholarly and may be too much for you, and for that matter, for your students. But I gave it a good ole college try. I kept to the Bly tradition of 3 lines, six stanzas. Each stanza could stand alone, and each ends with the same word. I also refer to myself in the final stanza. Let me know what you think. I have to say I had fun with this exercise.

…writing bad poetry

A glass of white wine, maybe red, or some pale ale
smears my day’s end like a phantasm of words
echoed in sounds of prayerful poetry.

Charlie barks at a passing squirrel, pulls hard.
Loosen the leash, make release for his chase.
Mary Oliver, meanwhile, would write poetry.

I want to believe more deeply in pure joy,
sip coffee and look into your eyes for truth.
This delicate awareness becomes my poetry.

Mark time with a toast to events of the each day,
Symphony Day, Iris Blooming Day, Waltzing Day.
Give notice to the day that finds poetry.

I know this hunger that no food or drink subsides.
Will the sunset reveal a sepulcher of secrets?
Do these rambling scribblings mimic poetry?

Historians liken Margaret to a queen who waves
from high upon the royal steed. Did any
Margaret you know turn blue writing bad poetry?

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved


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