A Gnomic Ghazal


April 8, 2014 by KWills

The letter GGnomic” is defined as an adjective meaning, “expressed in or of the nature of short, pithy maxims or aphorisms”. Gnomic poetry, therefore, is made up of various folk sayings; and not much else.

The ghazal (pronounced a bit like ‘guzzle‘) is an ancient Eastern form which has become popular in English language poetry. Some of the rules have been relaxed, to allow for the difference in language, but there is still plenty of structure to this form.

A ghazal is made up of between five and fifteen independent couplets – that is line pairs that could stand alone, outside of the context of the poem. The first couplet is rhymed, with a word or phrase repeated at the end of both lines. The “rhyme” word is actually the word before the repeated phrase, and this pattern of “rhyme + phrase” ties the couplets together. From the second couplet onwards, only the second line ends with the rhyme and the phrase – the first line is unrhymed. All lines in the poem must be the same length, although that length can be whatever you like.  The last couplet includes the poet’s name, or at least a reference to the poet.

Traditionally, a ghazal was about love, longing, loss and loneliness. However, as the form spread across the world, other themes opened up. Here, then, is my gnomic ghazal: It Is Said.

It Is Said

There’s nothing like experience, or so it is said,
So you should stick to writing what you know, it is said.

The other fellow’s grass seems the greener from afar,
While you can only reap of what you sow, it is said.

The empty kettle’s fast to boil, and rings very loud
But true affection makes the spirit glow, it is said.

Though borrowing and lending test the best friendship’s ties
To all you ought to render what you owe, it is said

Are all these sayings true? Use your common sense to tell
Is Kell my proper name? You’ll never know. It is said.

Oh, alright then, yes you will. It isn’t. Now you know.

See you tomorrow, with that perennial favourite: the haiku.


4 thoughts on “A Gnomic Ghazal

  1. Aditi says:

    I opened immediately when I read the word Ghazal in your title. Ghazals are sung here in our part of the country and as you mentioned correctly they have a sense of longing, pain, love….I have only heard Hindi and Urdu Ghazals….your work is superb!!

    • K. Willsen says:

      I’m glad I got it right! This is my first attempt at a Ghazal, although I first learned about it a few months ago. Really helpful – and encouraging – to get feedback from someone more familiar with the form, so thank you!

      I like the idea of hearing a Ghazal set to music. Even though I don’t understand Hindi or Urdu, the repeated phrase should be easy to pick out. I’ll have to see if I can find some examples online.

  2. Alex Hurst says:

    Those were really great uses of old sayings. I also just love the sound of the word “Ghazal”…. I’m going to have to name a character using that. 😉 Can’t wait for tomorrow! (Finally, one I know!)

    Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan, participating in Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

  3. I like Ghazals. I was introduced to Rumi and Hafiz by a Sufi friend. I’m a little obsessed with Rumi.

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