The Ghazal Page

Index to 2011 issues of The Ghazal Page
Back to December Solstice Index

December 2011: Ekphrastic Page

This page presents two ekphrastic ghazals by David Jalajel. An ekphrastic poem presents the poet's response to a work of art. It can be as "simple" as a description of the work or, more subtly, seek in words an effect parallel to the art-work's effect. Poets.org has a good brief article on ekphrasis (the noun form) with examples. The next ghazal challenge, to be announced about the first of February, will be for ekphrastic ghazals.

All text and design © 2011, by David Jalajel and Gene Doty.

Bachelors Bared Bride. Here.

David Jalajel

What are you doing here and what has happened
To your third arm? Fun times are here again.

Here to remantle everything: the visions
Where breasts are brass and nipples new, and sun.

Beats down on a glass skin. Here is the angel
Who, loving legs and things mechanical.

But passive hearings make the angels think
Too much, too long, too far. Ah, disarming.



Lucy – on the Nile with Flowers

David Jalajel

Yeah, to love everything that’s old:
Like flowers giving up smoking …

Like the Earth as art medium, organic,
Fixing the world to make it stop …

Like dismantling the works of Ramses,
The first & inherent growth artist …

Like real flower petals glued
To eyes – everything’s disposable …

Like friends, time, books & wine –
Get out of my dreams, get into my car.

Back to the top

The images below are of works of art, the copyright for which is most likely owned by either the artist who produced the image, the person who commissioned the work, or subsequent owners. We believed our use, on The Ghazal Page, of low-resolution images of such works for critical or creative commentary on them or their genre qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law. Any other use might be copyright infringement.

Large Glass, by Marcel Duchamp

Image by Marcel Duchamp

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, by Julian Lennon

Painting by Julian Lennon from 1967

Back to the top

Editorial Comments

David Jalalel's two ghazals exemplify ekphrastic poetry that seeks a form that expresses the formal effect of the art works. Another approach is a straightforward depiction of the graphic work. (See the article on Poets.org and this famous poem by W. H. Auden for a different approach.) The comments below describe Jalajel's formal innovations.

"Bachelors Bared Bride. Here." is an ekphrastic depiction of Marcel Duchamp's famous glass painting entitled: "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even." Like Duchamp's work, Jalajel's ghazal uses formal structure to draw the reader in with hints of meaning that almost cohere but never quite solidify into a definite content. The poem’ radif ("here/hear"), occurs in unusual places: the beginning, middle, or near the end of the shers, juxtaposed in ways that jar the ear, especially when it comes as the first word of the second sher only two syllables after appearing near the end of the first. However, the radif’s use is very traditional, conforming with the matla tradition by appearing in both lines of the first sher.

The full stops at the end of each sher break the syntax connecting the couplets and force the poem to comply with the formal rules of a Persian ghazal. By placing the radical enjambment – and therefore the strongest interruption – after the second sher, the poem is effectively divided in half by the intrusive full stop, as if the the first half of the poem is longing to reach over through the offending punctuation into the second half: "and sun./Beats down". This reflects the division between the bachelors and the bride into separate glass panels, and the bachelors’ drive to reach over into the top panel.

The ghazal’s title, with its use of two full stops, reflects the unusual title of the painting, with its comma use: “La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, meme.” More significantly, the poem’s title foregrounds two of the poems main structuring elements: the full stop which forces a separation between each sher, and the use of “here” as the radif.

The formal structuring of the ghazal, rather than giving the poem greater cohesion, fragments it further. The rigid structure works to arbitrarily confine the poem, break its flow, restrict it, and hem in its chaos. The form provides tension, claustrophobia, and an overwhelming sense of pent-up frustration.

Finally, the ghazal form – which traditionally deals with longing and unrequited love – is very well suited for a poem about Duchamp’s painting, which is itself about frustrated sexual desire.

"Lucy – on the Nile with Flowers" is an ekphrastic take on the Beatles song "Lucy – in the Sky with Diamonds" which is itself an exphrasis on a pastel on paper painting with the same title by John Lennon’s son Julian when he was in nursery school. It is understandable that many people refused to believe John Lennon's story about the origin of the song’s title after accusations were made that the song was really written about LSD. However, John Lennon stood by his story until his death. If we accept the story, then it makes his famous song an ekphrastic take on his son's painting.

Jalajel’s poem can be interpreted as an ekphrasis of the ekphrastic transformation of the painting into the pop-song. It can also be seen as Dadaist collage or as Pop Art poetry, ending by being turned into a pop song itself with the cheesy Billy Ocean line “Get out of my dreams, get into my car.”

The poem also seems to hint at the 1974 discovery of Lucy in Northeast Africa, who at the time was the oldest hominid specimen ever found. The fossil was named Lucy because the song was playing on a tape recorder at the camp when the discovery was made.

Back to the top