Friday, May 26, 2023

Poetry Friday: The Ghazal

"The Weather" by Laurie Anderson,
Exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC

I'm not sure about this one-- maybe because lore has it the ghazal takes its name from the noise a gazelle makes while dying? I certainly gasped my last a few times, working on this non-narrative form which is held together with one rhyme that comes directly before a repeated ending refrain.  The first couplet signals the ghazal form's arrival by doing this twice; the rest of the couplets only have the rhyme/refrain combo in the second line.

And I say again: it's non-narrative. No story telling allowed. The effect is supposed to be one of a string of beads, each sufficient unto itself but tied together by the refrain. Or perhaps a mirror, shattered into revealing shards. Finally,  it's traditional for the poet to mention herself in the last couplet.  Ooof.  

I dunno.  To me, writing this felt like being made to comply with strict rules and yet, being completely adrift without narrative at the same time. But enough about process. This is about trying. DOING. Letting things be as they are and inviting the reader to make their own connections. Perhaps that, too is a form of our 2023 theme of transformation (conversion, alteration, metamorphosis, mutation, growth, evolution, revision, modulation, change.. )  I'm still not sure, but as I sprinkled a few of those transformation words into my ghazal, I could feel a poem forming....

Half the world

They say the ad is for oysters, yet there she is, but half
mutated—her mermaid tail the gut half;

They say if we bow to modulation twelve times a day, 
our risk of dying (but they only studied men) is cut by half.

They say: Someone else. Somewhere else.
Can’t you see evolution dictates we shut out half?

They say we can’t write of overflowing life-altering loss, of not now, 
not whole, of not even close to having somewhat half.

They say: would we like roast chicken with homegrown kumquats
and kale salad or hey, catch! one stale doughnut half?

They say I shouldn’t laugh at the erupting fountain 
when I chop the hairy shell of a coconut in half.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

You can read more about the form here.  And my poetry sisters' ghazals can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Patricia at Reverie.