Chain Ghazal

From The Guardian:

GhazalThere's always a wealth of interesting new writing in Gene Doty's online quarterly, The Ghazal Page, reflecting the editor's welcoming and creative approach to the classical form (a ghazal is a kind of oriental lyric). This week's poem, Chain Ghazal: Chickens by Esther Greenleaf Mürer, comes from the latest issue and nicely blends innovative and traditional approaches. It's guaranteed to put a spring in your step, even if the March weather doesn't. Originally, in the Persian ghazal, the couplet, or sher, was a single line divided by a caesura, and each sher formed a small, separate poem. Agha Shahid Ali, the ghazal's first “ambassador” in America, describes the couplet as “a stone from a necklace”. A mono-rhyme (the qafia), declared in the first couplet, and picked up by the second line of each succeeding one, brings unity to the diversity of the whole poem. The refrain, or radif, has a similar function, and follows the qafia in the same pattern. The last couplet traditionally includes the poet's name. Readers in the UK will know Mimi Khalvati's many fine and tender love poems in the form. The challenge for the anglophone poet lies both in rhyming skill and tonal balance. The repetition of qafia and radif suggests polysyllabic rhyme, and the latter, in English, tends towards comic verse. Mürer's poem is open to the comic spirit, but also uses the rhyme scheme's potential for generating serious ideas – and narrative. The choice of linked quatrains thickens the plot. Mürer triples the mono-rhyme in each stanza, and each first line of a new stanza recovers, with minor variations, the refrain from the last line of the previous one: hence, the “chain” effect. That repetition, although it crosses the stanza break, gives a rather “bluesy” feel to this ghazal. In fact, the fourth stanza talks about the “blues”, including the word in its trio of rhymes, and about how walking cures them. It's almost as if the poem spliced two genres: the ghazal and the blues. Even without that direct reference, you'd hear the slightly mournful undertone to the jauntiness.

Chain Ghazal: Chickens

I never count my chickens when crossing the road.
I always run like the dickens when crossing the road.
When I let go of expectations I'm always amazed
at how the plot thickens once I have crossed the road.

When preparing to cross the road I gird up my loins.
Before I pick up a toad I gird up my loins.
And thus I train myself in poetic practice:
When fixing to write an ode I gird up my loins.

First I gird up my loins and then I put on my shoes.
Fill my pockets with coins before I put on my shoes.
It will never do to arrive back home with bare feet;
can't go to Des Moines until I've put on my shoes.

More here. (Note: The picture shows one of my favorite ghazals by the great Urdu poet Ghalib)