Dancing shaman with a kingfisher's head.
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2004 Ghazals, Set One


One reason for the delay between issues of The Ghazal Page--there was a dearth of submissions. Perhaps it was the winter weather, or the sun in warmer latitudes. In any case, submissions have picked up again; here is the first set of ghazals for 2004.

Five ghazals here. Three follow all, or most, of the traditional form. Two don't use the rhyme or repetend but do follow the spirit of the ghazal in being sequences of disjunct couplets (or shers, if you prefer.

Dawn Ho's poem, "Shades of White," presents us with a rich palette of sea-colors. The poem is an impressionist range of tones, tints, and intense, vibratory hues. The feeding shark that ends the poem sheds the imagination's blood.

Roger Robinson's "A Classical Ghazal" piles on the rhyme, as he rhymes radif and qafiya. You'd think such intensely repeated rhymes in English would tire the ear--after all, English's poverty of rhyme makes the ghazal a difficult form as it is. Yet in this poem, the intense repetitions reinforce the wit. And each poet mentioned is worth careful reading. (And his pen-name, "senex," carries the appropriate wit to sign this poem.)

For another, earlier example of rhyming beyond the call of ghazal-duty, see "Yasmin," by James Elroy Flecker. I discuss this poem and the site hosting in the first blog for 2004.

Matthew Skelly's ghazal, "Ghazal of a Light in the Dark," gives us the full ghazal treatment in form and in content. The mood that informs this poem should be familiar to all of us. It reads as a restatement of the book Ecclessiastes (Qoheleth) in Tanak (the Christian Old Testament, the Jewish Holy Book),

Christina-Marie Umscheid's poems depart furthest from traditional ghazal form, but, to me, they stay consistent with the ghazal spirit of disjunction, of a cubist collage of perceptions. The "small boats" she sends "out to sea" are sea-worthy and agile even in heavy weather.

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Shades of White

by Dawn Ho

Shimmering in water, a ray of light,
Glimmering pearl in ever-ghastly white.

Pearl lies in creamy flesh of age-old mussel,
Enshrouded by oblong shell of gray-striped white.

Shell dwarfed by plains of tropical coral,
Sheltering clownfish of carrot and white.

Silvery fish zip as massive shark passes,
With distinctive gray skin and belly of white.

Shark shatters sea surface as ash seals skim,
Locks one silk body in a cage of white.

Crimson fuses cobalt in streaks of blood,
More join heavenly houses of white.

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A Classical Ghazal

by Roger Robison

Poets owe debts, so disburse lines of verse.
Booksellers print and disperse lines of verse.

Martial was master of short bits of wit.
Epigrams sting; they are terse lines of verse.

Ovid once authored a guide book on love.
Fescennine verses were worse lines of verse.

Juvenal's poems were scornful of vice.
Satire makes use of averse lines of verse.

Vergil's "Aeneid" was epic in scope.
Elegies signify hearse lines of verse.

Horace, in lyric tones, penned many odes.
Many a student will curse lines of verse.

Senex, let's face it, your ghazal is dreck.
Practice your dactyls to nurse lines of verse.

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Ghazal of a Light in the Dark

by Matthew Skelly

Our morals and spirits are sold while we die
We trade our good nature for gold while we die

And despite any claim that we live in humility
Any day we'd hand over our soul while we die

Breaking down barriers to take what is left
We're all just packed into a mold while we die

Our noses pressed against the frost covered glass
We're warm but we wish to be cold while we die

Our covetous hearts long for more than we've got
With envy our minds are controlled while we die

With freedom we're stingy and keep all we've got
Our possessions grow useless and old while we die

We're filed in closely and made to "think straight"
With these standards our thoughts are parolled while we die

We exploit any heroes and uplift their pride
Their stories incessantly told while we die

Our interest are not in the matters of fact
Outlining entertainment in bold while we die

But this gift of God can dispel the dark
With His promise we're forever consoled while we die

Matthew means gift of god

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"Life Is Probably Round"

by Christina-Marie Umscheid

On a cliff, an eagle's nest is empty.
One season of birth has come and gone.

Stars mock night
with slumber.

Pyramids bring haunting images
and naked windows facing sun.

Remains of ancient times
linger in hunger for quiet.

What meaning is in round birthing bellies
standing near ripples?

Water gives life or takes it away.
Rolling hills have been covered with green.

Whisper a secret in my ear
as a prayer.

Build a fire in a circle.
Flames dance without feet.

Here snow has gone
and returns with black ice.

Wind frets with leaves
as we name each sound we hear..

Poets tie paper, round and woven
sending small boats out to sea

12/27/2003

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In the Winter of Extremes

by Christina-Marie Umscheid

Today is the first day of the monkey year,
where one hundred can change the washing of food.

One hundred makes a theory come true.
One hundred monkeys might make a better year.

Starting the wolf moon hunger howls in the belly.
Grey echoes in minor avalanches.

Salt licks at edges
not melting covers of ice.

New winds move a storm
again and again.

Shovels turn flatness into paths
narrow ways of escape..

Animals run not to hide
but feeling the pull of moon.

Wolf lips touch the mouth
Licking one day at a time.

Paws are tender on ice
carrying tiny white balls inside.

Bits of snow melt on rugs
before monkeys can play.

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