Guest poem sent in by Mark G. Ryan
(Poem #1161) Ghazal of the Lagoon
Morning, on the promenade, there's a break in the light rain here in the serene republic. I take in the light. Every walker gets lucky at this gaming table, where the gondoliers, like croupiers, rake in the light. Through the glare of a restaurants window, I see fish glinting, like spear points that shake in the light. I could sit on the edge and get wet forever, all to consider a speed boat's wake in the light. Furnaces burn. We sweat until we shine, fired up by the wavy vases glassblowers make in the light. Row me out, friars, in your _sandolo_ on the waves that glitter like ducats, for God's sake, in the light.
(see footnote  for source) I know little of John Drury except that he has written two books (The_Poetry_Dictionary and a collection of poems called The_Disappearing_Town), and that he teaches creative writing at the University of Cincinnati, where he has won awards for his teaching . This poem caught my eye because it is an almost perfect example of a ghazal. The difficulty of pulling off the ghazals form in English is obvious. But Drury follows the form closely for the most part, and the result looks effortless. The rhymes do not seem forced and the refrain is noticeable without calling attention to itself. The only traditional ghazal feature _not_ exemplified in this poem is the use of the author's pen name in the final couplet. It is also short by one couplet, the usual number being 7 to 12. Given the scarcity of rhyming words in English, shorter is probably better. The poem appears on the surface to be little more than a travelogue, but one senses the presence of another person--a woman--throughout, especially in the lines: Furnaces burn. We sweat until we shine, fired up by the wavy vases glassblowers make in the light. This fits with the original Arabic meaning of "ghazal", which was talking about women. The eroticism in this poem is less overt than in some ghazal, but this does not make it any less real. Experts mostly agree that the ghazal originated in Arabia. Today it is best known from examples in the Persian (Farsi) and Urdu languages, but Medieval examples exist in Turkish, Pushto, Hebrew and even Spanish. Interestingly, "This eighth-century form was popularized in the West by German Romanticists."  It seems to be undergoing a new burst of popularity today. One criticism of the last couplet: I am not sure where the "friars" fit in with the rest of the poem (and the final use of the refrain is a little disappointing). But it is a deeply mysterious image, and one that contrasts strongly with the two lines quoted above. For anyone interested in the ghazal form and traditional aesthetic, here is one possible description : Form: 1. Five to twelve couplets. 2. Absolutely no enjambment between adjacent couplets. 3. Both lines of the first couplet must end with a rhyme and then a refrain: ----------------------- RHYME_A + REFRAIN ------------------------RHYME_A + REFRAIN The rhyming word must immediately precede the refrain in both lines 4. Each succeeding couplet ends with same rhyme and refrain in the second line: ------------------------------------------- ------------------------RHYME_A + REFRAIN Thus, the rhyme scheme is AA, BA, CA, DA, EA, etc. The rhyming word must immediately precede the refrain. 5. Each line must be of the same length and metrical pattern (this is always the case in Urdu and Farsi). The specific meter and pattern depends on the language in which the poem is written. 6. The last couplet usually is a signature couplet, where the poet includes his or her pen name. It can be written in the first, second or third person. Aesthetic: 1. The opening couplet should establish the mood and tone for the poem. 2. The mood of the ghazal in Urdu and Persion is "melancholy and amorous" . "What defines the ghazal is constant longing" . 3. Each couplet should be self-sufficient unit, quotable and "jewel-like". Qualities that may be present: epigrammatic terseness, lyricism, wit. Different couplets need not express a unity or continuity of thought. 4. The second line of the couplet usually amplifies the thought in the first, or provides a twist or surprise. Notes on sources:  Collected in: Agha Shahid Ali, ed. Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English (Wesleyan University Press, 2000. p. 54.)  http://www.uc.edu/profiles/drury.htm  Jack Myers and Michael Simms. The Longman Dictionary of Poetic Terms. New York: Longman, 1999.  Loosely based on: Agha Shahid Ali, op. cit., pp. 183-184.  Ahmed Ali, The Golden Tradition. New York, Columbia University Press, 1973; p. 2-22.  Agha Shahid Ali, op. cit., p. 183.