Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Swill Ghazal #NationalPoetryMonth

Image from Brainless Tales by Marcus
Water is the stuff of life, and, in order to grow up, you have to absorb as much as you can. But not too much. Everything in moderation. I had to play with this apparent contradiction—this conceit— and what better form than the ghazal?*

Swill Ghazal

 Two sisters drenched and laughing together, side by side, step
forth knee-deep, splash each other giggling, wading in lock-step.

Toasting, fumbling, storytelling, guzzling life together—
eyes smiling, voices harmonizing, immersed step-by-step.

Bodies steeping, marinating, swapping boys like clothing;
bobbing along, the frequent slip-up, the clumsy half-step.

Does one leap forth on paths, more carefree with a buoyant gait
and the other trawl her feet with caution, plant every step?

Who's to say? At the end of the day, one of them has sunk
but this beloved still treads somehow, despite each misstep.

*Ghazal, in English, is roughly pronounced "guzzle." According to poets.org, this intricate, musical form with five to fifteen couplets originates from 7th century Arabia. From there, it traveled to Persia, India, and all points west and everywhere. Ghazals traditionally invoke love, melancholy, longing, and metaphysical questions. Each couplet works on its own structurally, thematically, and emotionally. each line is the same length, but meter is not necessary in English ghazals. The first couplet begins a scheme, made up of a rhyme or repeated end word used as a refrain. Subsequent couplets repeat the refrain in the second line. The final couplet usually includes the poet's signature, referring to the author either in the first or third person. It typically includes the poet's own name or a derivation of its meaning.

Beware: ghazals are habit-forming puzzles, worse than crosswords, Words with Friends, Bejeweled, or what have you. Don't believe me? Try one. You'll see what I mean when you look up from your pen and paper five hours later, wondering what the hell happened to your day.

If you do try one, be a dear and post it here to share, won't you?

And if you're in search of inspiration and want to see modern mastery of the English ghazal form, search no further.  Click here and here and prepare to be blown away by the works of Patricia Smith and Natasha Trethewey.

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