Lately I have heard a ghazal being described by some poets as a series of disjointed thoughts. They follow this up with free-verse poems of disjointed thoughts. This is not just a simplistic distortion of this centuries old sophisticated art form, it is simply wrong.

I recognize everything in life is fluid. Language changes, art transforms itself. But you do not describe abstract art as realism. You would not write a 30-line poem and call it haiku, or a free-verse 40-line poem a sonnet. Over the centuries, while some features of a ghazal may have changed, the underlying structure has remained the same.

Writing free-verse poems of disjointed thoughts is a legitimate form of poetry, but it’s not a ghazal. Give it another name. Call it: Free-verse Poems of Disjointed Thoughts. Or simply, Diss-Jointed Thoughts. I will not wear torn jeans and say I’m formally dressed. I could, but you may roll your eyes.

My love affair with this form of poetry intensified as my familiarity with the Urdu language grew. Ghazal, meaning ode to women, remains rooted in love, separation, mysticism, but has also come to reflect life in all forms and spheres of human emotions and interactions. In Urdu, it is evocative, often emotionally masochistic, but always lyrical and charming, and never appears maudlin. I believe it’s because of the grace and lyricism of the Urdu language.

A ghazal is several couplets put together. Each couplet is generally independent and complete; however, they may also have a link of thought or feeling. What links the couplets may not be a common theme, but a common structure. Like a sonnet, or a haiku, a ghazal, in any language, MUST encompass and adhere to this basic structure.

The exercise of writing a ghazal in English was more difficult than I had anticipated. Giving a ghazal a title is not usual, but it does not take away from the structure either, hence a license I have taken.

Even the breeze is an intrusion when you and I meet
Like a ship on the horizon where the earth and sky meet

Your eyes traced my form on the yellow and red sand
Where the roar of the waves and the gull’s cry meet

Like a distant storm your madness brews
With shuttered eyes I wait till you and I meet

Now your lights are dim and your sails are limp
Why clutch why seek why forage why meet

While each couplet stands on its own, what’s common in the couplets is the meter. The last word, or set of words, of the first couplet, are the same: meet. And, the last but one or two words in the couplet must rhyme: I, sky.

The first line of the 2nd couplet keeps the meter in tact, but does not adhere to any rhyming. But, the second line must end with the same word or words as the first couplet, in this case: meet; and the word before that must rhyme with the corresponding ones in the first couplet, I, sky, cry, thus requiring internal rhyming.

If it appears complex, it is, somewhat. Another offering in this genre, if I may:

Burdened with heat and high noon, summer was here always
Laden with pollen, laced with pain, the days were there always

Yes, I recall, the love made of straws, atop a neem tree
You and I built, to burn and banish, earthly fear always

On ochre days you waft by like a red summer bird
You cut through the razor rays you swoop and snare always

There are no seeds in my belly no seedlings to impart
Just a handful of sand with you I’ll share always

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