Saturday, December 29, 2007

Guzzle your ghazals


I just came back from dinner at a Peruvian restaurant with five of my students; they wanted to have some fun over the Xmas break, and invited me out; I was happy to join them. We got stuffed on seafood and plied ourselves with sangria, and had plenty of laughs. The same five are captured in the above photograph taken at a school Xmas party about ten days ago (I have more than 20 on my class list: this is a small "core group" that hangs out together). They are, across the top, Gabriel from Columbia, Dary from Cambodia, Choun Ming from China via Paris (he actually grew up in France), and across the bottom, yours truly, and Svilen and Alexandra from Bulgaria. Lovely people, all of them.

Today I spent much of the day making three submissions (assertions?) to various reviews -- an occasion to look over the poems, fine tune with changes and deletions (one good reason to send things out: revisit your own work, and by implication, your life). A submission to CV2's upcoming Jilted Issue took me on a trip through time: I revisited a very lonely poem from almost two decades ago (it's a good one); the three more recent ones are a good measure of where I've come. A poignant experience, going through those: I'm sure CV2 is going to get a crop of heartfelt poems.

On Xmas day, I put up the post below. An exploration of ghazals, it's a kind of implicit Good Cheer. So I didn't bother with the usual huzzahs.

I remember I was distinctly disappointed when I learned how "ghazal" is pronounced in official Arabic: it is not a variation of gazelle, but rather more like "ghuzzle" -- perhaps appropriate for a poem form traditionally centred on drinking and love.

Right now, though, I think I'll make the implicit explicit: Season's greetings, everyone!

3 comments:

R. W. Watkins said...

Hey Brian...Are you forgetting that I'm the only poet in Canada who writes proper ghazals...? Are you forgetting it was me who churned out Contemporary Ghazals Nos. 1 and 2...? Didn't you read anything I sent you a few months back? Don't you recall that ghazal by moi I pointed out to you at The Evergreen Review site? Eric Folsom, Dorothy Livesay and Lorna Crozier have written and published a load of stuff that are 'ghazals' in name only--been scoffed-at for it, actually, especially by poets and editors south of the border. But that's typical of 95 percent of Canadian bards today, isn't it?--Hardly anyone is capable of writing anything in a closed form.--Rob

Brian Campbell said...

I guess I am forgetting. *Duh*

I haven't seen your Contemporary Ghazals. I remember you mentioned them, and that LCP people didn't respond to your ad for them... I wasn't in the LCP at the time, but then it wouldn't have stuck a chord with me either, at that time. (I still haven't tried my hand at one myself.)

I liked your poem on the Evergreen Review site very much -- even pointed that out in a cover letter to the editors of said review that I just sent yesterday. But guess what: I didn't even *recognize* it as a ghazal.

Is there a self-reference at the end? Does it touch on love and drinking? I remember the rhyme scheme was tight as can be, that was quite something. Now I want to re-read it, but have trouble opening the site right now. (It seems stuck on the index page.)

What goes below is a draft of a review I sent to poetryreviews.ca on one particular book. I like many of the poems, whatever they are, "proper" or "improper": even Folsom (following the cue of Phyllis Webb) calls them "anti-ghazals".

How can I get a hold of your Contemporary Ghazals?

R. W. Watkins said...

Duh! I think I got Dorothy Livesay confused with Phyllis Webb! Definitely not Lorna Crozier, however. I remember her from an e-mail she sent me regarding a book of (fake) ghazals she had written; she made snide remarks about my lack of patriotism or something. Then again, I had 'postscripted' an e-mail to her with 'God Bless America!'....

When it comes to ghazal themes, Wine and (definitely) Love still dominate in India, but they've become pretty much optional. As for the practice of 'makhta' (including one's name or nickname in the final couplet), I think that became optional a long time ago, if not from the start. The remaining essential attributes of the Persian/Urdu-style ghazal are 'matla', 'qafia', 'radif' and metrical/syllabic equality of couplets.

For more information on ghazal construction, read my Outsider Writers article 'Eastern Versatility', which is available via the topmost blog entry at my MySpace profile. There, you shall also find links to some of my other internet creations (more to be added soon), and info on Contemporary Ghazals and my other zines and chapbooks.