ENG200.002 -- Introduction to Literary Study
Prof. Eileen Joy
SHORT PAPER #5: The Ghazal
Your fifth short paper is a creative writing assignment, in which you will write a ghazal [pronounced "ghuzzle"--where the "g" is partially silent], a venerable genre of poetry originating in the medieval Arabic (Persian) tradition. Although the form, in its original tradition, can be quite complex, for the purposes of this assignment, use the following minimal benchmarks as your guidelines (but please feel free to innovate: that is the true mark of an artist, where form provides a foundation for creative adaptation):
- A ghazal is typically formed of about five couplets, and no more than fifteen.
- Each 2-line couplet should be emotionally, structurally, and thematically autonomous (seperate) from each other couplet: in other words, each couplet should stand alone as a complete (poetic) thought or statement or feeling or image or "story," etc.
- Meter is not imposed (a uniform rhythm), but each couplet should be roughly the same length.
- There should be an attempt to link the couplets by some form of repetition (of words or word-sounds or images or moods, etc.) between couplets. [And if you really want to get fancy, you can follow the more strict rule where the end of the second line of each couplet, after the first couplet, contains the same repeated or rhymed word or phrase.]
- It is not uncommon for the poet to include himself/herself, either in the first or third person, in the final couplet.
- The most common themes for the ghazal are: melancholy, love, longing, and metaphysical questions.
You might want to look at some ghazals written by well-known poets:
Agha Shahid Ali, "Even the Rain"
Heather McHugh, "Ghazal of the Better-Unbegun"
Peter Cole, "The Ghazal of What Hurt"
Patricia Smith, "Hip-Hop Ghazal"