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

The Ghazal, In My Opinion

by Majid Mohiuddin
A Muse meant to teach them to write, in my opinion.
Amusement! For they are not right, in my opinion.

Poor, awkward fledgling couplets of the other ghazals!
They flap two wings, yet there's no flight, in my opinion.

They're adrift like blinking Fireflies lost in the dark,
Not Lightning on a stormy night! in my opinion.

A fierce sher turns to lukewarm sheer by just a pen's stroke!
One curdles in the other's sight, in my opinion.

With no talk of the Beloved or love of religion,
Such words seem thematically trite, in my opinion.

There are strict rules to be followed to make the game fun,
Herein lies the old ghazal's might, in my opinion.

Where's the dueling with word play? What I found was perverse
Per verse, inlaid gems sparkle bright, in my opinion.

Diamonds are made from a form that's harder than cut-glass,
These harsh words are not meant as spite, in my opinion.

What is the point of declaring my love to the world?
The blind have no need for a light, in my opinion.

Wisdom in poetry comes by studying our lives,
Let the scholars quibble and fight, in my opinion.

Shahzadah's keen eyes view the immense world from above:
This hawk swoops down from a great height, in my opinion.

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The Mad Eternal Answer

by R. L. Kennedy
On Tibet's plains humbly dwells the answer.
From quantum grains mutely swells the answer.

DNA contains life's spiral equation.
Infinite chains hold an endless answer.

Lava's fine veins conserve its creation.
Glacial moraines hide the ice bound answer.

Moet's champagne's a giddy libation.
Bubbly mist rains too human an answer.

Logic explains the laws of negation.
Truth badly stains the ultimate answer.

Hermits abstain in search of salvation.
The blindman's cane taps loud with the answer.

Planets sustain consistent rotation.
Dervishes strain spinning for an answer.

Lover's refrains explode with elation.
Sonnets most vain can't fathom the answer.

Doctor's domains demand firm vocation.
Leprosy' pains relate to the answer.

Insanity reigns with wild desperation.
Pure madness gains the eternal answer.

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Through All Those Years

by Robert B. Godwin
She could have played the tease through all those years
and kept him ill-at-ease through all those years.

Certainly her beauty held men fast,
though no man would she please through all those years.

His love amused her, though she did not laugh--
such was her expertise through all those years.

He had an artist's lonely fantasy,
deep-sculpted in a frieze through all those years.

His softly-whispered songs of love unbound
were absent of reprise through all those years.

He held no hope his love would be returned
upon a summer's breeze through all those years.

His love, as he well knew, would ever face
a great cheval-de-frise through all those years.

No matter that his love was doomed to fail:
he loved one Vietnamese through all those years.

When came the end, poor Robin could not win,
for Love was his disease through all those years.

Cheval-de-frise: a medieval form of military defense against enemy cavalry.
In this poem, a woman's defense against a persistent suitor.

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Golden Oaks

by Taylor Graham
Here he sits, in his new estate without a name,
to contemplate an old-folk’s state without a name.

His room has a window looking out on grass
and sky, where small birds mate without a name.

He roams the halls by wheelchair, but each one
ends at some invisible gate without a name.

The meals are good, nutritionally balanced;
he toys with a tasteless dish without a name.

We visit and make jokes. He folds his features
in a smile, or is it hate without a name?

He swiped a bar of soap, and sat before the pane
X’-ing the glass like a slate without a name.

Walls of forgetfulness: he forgets nothing;
has never known this kind of wait without a name.

Each time we visit, he asks again to go away.
But late becomes so very late without a name.

He’s home here. Nurses pat his head and laugh
when he calls this place a fate without a name.

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Editor's Comments

Majid Mohiuddin gives all of us would-be ghazalers a challenge. In a way similar to Agha Shahid Ali, he challenges Western poets to engage the ghazal-tradition more fully and with greater awareness.

And playfulness: "Where's the dueling with word play?" Where indeed? Read this poem carefully with open ear. (Note that sheer means "lion.")

Majid published a collection of ghazals, An Audience of One, in 2001. I have just posted a review of it. The book is well worth your money and time spent reading it.

I offer that clever use of qafiya and radif are part of the word play proper to the ghazal. Bob Kennedy typically overdetermines qafiya and radif, giving the reader a richness of sonic resonance that even infects these comments! Rhyming qafiya and radif in each line and adding a rhyme to the first line of each sher after the matla, Bob shows us that English isn't really a rhyme-poor language after all.

This is Robert Godwin's first appearance in The Ghazal Page, and a good debut it is too. English is notorious for the inconsistency of its spelling. Various people--including George Bernard Shaw--have attempted to reform our spelling. However, look at Robert's qafiya, a set of full rhymes with quite varied spelling. Eye and ear work together here to get the sameness of the sound and the difference of the spelling. Personally, I find the texture of English orthography delightful even if frustrating.

In Part One of The Lord of the Rings, Tom Bombadil asks Frodo, "Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself, and nameless?" Zen masters like to insist that their disciples show the "true face" they had before they were born. A father of the Orthodox Church, Evagrius Ponticus, said much the same thing. Without a name is our fundamental condition, both disorienting and exhilirating. The "he" in Taylor Graham's ghazal lives in a world without nouns, yet he seems very aware of that condition. The "we" in this poem also is "without a name." Taylor leaves his condition "without a name," although we can be sure that society and the medical profession have names for it. But, sometimes, names are only so many pats on the head of the nameless.

I'd like to repeat my request that ghazals be submitted in plain text, unformatted email. The "smart" apostrophes etc provided by Microsoft aren't compatible with HTML and create problems in getting the text of the ghazal correct.

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