Back to 2004 Ghazals
Sun Jul 25 08:42:51 2004
It's a truism that English is a rhyme-poor language in contrast with other languages where rhyming is presumably easier. Vani Kannan's ghazals, along with others on The Ghazal Page, suggest that there are still plenty of opportunities to rhyme in English, especially if one counts off-rhyme, half-rhyme, slant-rhyme, whatever you want to call it.
The fluidity of the rhymes in these three ghazals is impressive. In the first, the first line of each couplet after the first rhymes with the radif. The vowel-rhymes, "move" and "mood," provide some variation in this scheme, but are strong enough in context to be effective. At the same time, Kannan uses some partial rhymes for the qafiya, which I believe is not only a good choice, but a necessity for ghazals in English. Check out the words that make up the qafiya in this poem:
These words rhyme in the weak ending syllable and nearly rhyme in their stressed syllables. (Some are full rhymes, some aren't.)
The second ghazal uses internal and end rhyme in the first line of each couplet. These rhymes--some full, some partial--provide another "melody" running in counter-point to the qafiya and radif. The rhyme scheme also seems to reflect the theme of opposites expressed in the dark/light, high/deep imagery in the poem.
In "Your Past Lives," there is internal and end rhyming in the first line of each couplet and internal rhyming in the second line of each. These rhymes function as the qafiya, again providing variation and rich music.
In these and other ghazals, we see real opportunities to find English schemes to embody the rich interlacing of traditional ghazals.
Taylor Graham's ghazal is itself a "sleight of shadow," with the play of light/shadow, sun/moon, sin/love.
This ghazal depicts a moon that seems both contemporary and mythic. The moon has always a dream-like quality as it illuminates the night. This moon of childhood, dreams, and magic glows throughout the ghazal. At the same time, lines like "It marks your pillow, moon-faced, with the pits" present the very real moon, the moon on which humans have walked, the great rocky sphere that humans may someday inhabit.
The first line of the ghazal and the second line of the sixth sher use the same word as qafiya--". . . reflects light in shadow" and ". . . makes light of shadow." Normally, I'd object to a repetition like this, but in this case, the lights are homophones, not the "same" word. And the two words have different grammatical functions. This use of homophones illustrates another possibility for our efforts to achiece ghazal-form in English
Even though I comment a lot on the technical aspect of ghazals here, I do recognize the importance of theme, image, subject, mood . . . . But since a major purpose of The Ghazal Page is to work toward making the ghazal an English form, the technical aspects are significant toward that end.
by Vani Kannan
1. When It Was All New
The day that you met her, when it was all new.
Awaiting the time and rethinking the move
A smile, a fingertip, subtle and true
In one fleeting moment, He granted a mood
You landed and smiled, then parted and flew
2. The Ocean
If you love the ocean, leave tears in the ocean
Sunsoaked but dark, and oh so shallow at the start
Humble but deep, so lofty but so steep
Souls will weep with times bittersweet
Leave maya behind, leave your tired mind
If only you could see your image in me
3. Your Past Lives
The tears uncried in your past lives
She wished she knew the cold and blue
She'd hug you then; you'd walk as friends
Instead you sighed, hummed minor lines,
Found foreign lips, a summer kiss
She'll feel in you a deeper hue
Moons wax and wan, only words remain
To melt the snow, plant seeds and grow
by Taylor GrahamAll night the full moon reflects light in shadow,
playing at dreams and doubts with sleight of shadow.
It marks your pillow, moon-faced, with the pits
For hours of sleepless night you twist your sheets
Omission and commission tip their sin-scales,
Beside you lies a woman, in this room of your own
Does it matter that always dawn comes again,
You've come to love this long night like a sister