A ghazal is a poem consisting of five to fifteen couplets, originally written in Middle Eastern languages, typically dealing in deep loss or great love.
The rhyme scheme is intricate, as each couplet ends with the same word or phrase, and also includes a preceding rhyming word.
Poet John Hollander wrote “Ghazal on Ghazals” which is quite helpful, and entertaining, as it is a poem that helps describe a ghazal, as a ghazal.
Ghazal on Ghazals, by John Hollander
For couplets the ghazal is prime; at the end
Of each one’s a refrain like a chime: “at the end.”
But in subsequent couplets throughout the whole poem,
It’s this second line only will rhyme at the end.
On a string of such strange, unpronounceable fruits,
How fine the familiar old lime at the end!
All our writing is silent, the dance of the hand,
So that what it comes down to’s all mine, at the end.
Dust and ashes? How dainty and dry! We decay
To our messy primordial slime at the end.
Two frail arms of your delicate form I pursue,
Inaccessible, vibrant, sublime at the end.
You gathered all manner of flowers all day,
But your hands were most fragrant of thyme, at the end.
There are so many sounds! A poem having one rhyme?
A good life with a sad, minor crime at the end.
Each new couplet’s a different ascent: no great peak,
But a low hill quite easy to climb at the end.
Two armed bandits: start out with a great wad of green
Thoughts, but you’re left with a dime at the end.
Each assertion’s a knot which must shorten, alas,
This long-worded rope of which I’m at the end.
Now Qafia Radif has grown weary, like life,
At the game he’s been wasting his time at. THE END.
Read this great article from the Indianapolis Public Library about ghazals.
Find out about poetry a to z.