Background of the Challenge

In 2008, I began issuing challenges on The Ghazal Page, inspired by an article in Reorientations/Arabic and Persian Poetry (edited by Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych and published by Indiana University Press in 1994). The article, by Franklin D. Lewis, describes how poets used the same radif in a number of poems, showing their skill and wit. The challenges on The Ghazal Page began with a common radif but expanded to a challenge to write ghazals in the tercet form devised by Robert Bly or to use color words as the radif, and, most recently, the theme of books.

The responses to the challenges have been wonderful. Each time, a number of poets submitted effective ghazals, often with very imaginative responses to the challenge. Reading through the challenge issues reveals a range of approaches to a common problem, a range that helps illuminate what the Ghazal can be in English.

In an article in Reorientations/Arabic and Persian Poetry (edited by Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych and published by Indiana University Press in 1994), Franklin D. Lewis describes how poets used the same radif in a number of poems, showing their skill and wit.

Lewis's article suggested the radif challenges for The Ghazal Page; the challenge is to write a ghazal using a set radif. The results of the previous challenges show how adept ghazal poets can be at using common imagery.