History of Growth of The Ghazal in America
Ghazal as a form of poetry has its roots in 7th century Arabia, the popularity of which peaked in the 13th and 14th centuries thanks to poets like Rumi and Hafiz. It consists of at least five verses but no more than fifteen. These couplets can be structurally, thematically and emotionally autonomous, although the length of the lines remains the same. Traditionally, the first verse introduces a scheme consisting of a rhyme followed by a chorus. Subsequent stanzas pick up the same scheme, but only the second lines of the following stanzas repeat the chorus and rhyme of both lines of the first stanza. The final verse usually contains the poet's signature, referring to the author in the first or third person, and often also the poet's name or pseudonym.
Hindi Poetry Ghazals traditionally raise melancholy, love, longing and metaphysical questions. These are usually sung by Iranian, Indian and Pakistani singers. By the 18th century, the ghazal was extremely popular with poets who wrote in Urdu and several other languages, including Persian, Hindi and Punjabi. Mirza Ghalib remains the undisputed master of Ghazals to this day.
Other languages adopted by ghazals are Pashto, Turkish and Hebrew. Goethe, the German poet and philosopher, experimented with the shape, as did the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.
Indian musicians such as Ravi Shankar and Begum Akhtar made ghazals popular in the English-speaking world in the 1960s. However, it was in 1968 that Ghazal first entered American poetry as an idea, if not a poetic form. Aijaz Ahmad, a Pakistani literary and cultural critic living in New York, took it upon himself to celebrate the centennial of Mirza Ghalib's death, which fell in 1969. He sought out several well-known American poets to work on a pamphlet with translations of Ghalib's Ghazal for the centenary. The idea was well received, and instead of a pamphlet, a 174-page book, Ghazals of Ghalib, was published by Columbia University Press. Many of these translations have also appeared in major American and Indian literary magazines. Contributors to that book included four future Pulitzer Prize winners who enjoyed some status in the literary community at the time: W.S.Merwin, Adrienne Rich, William Stafford, and Mark Strand. Rich was fascinated by Ghazal and completed the Ghazal series in 1968, the first to be published by an American poet. Rich's ghazals, like her translations, did not abide by conventions or rules of traditional form.
A dead mosquito squashed against a door;
his image could come and survive us.
LeRoi! Eldridge! listen to us, we are ghosts
condemned to chase the cities where you want to be at home.
The white children turn black at the minimum.
The summer clouds turn black in the camera head.
We are willing to make any mistakes that can be made;
anything less would not live up to the reality we dream.
Someone has always been desperate, now it's our turn-
we who were free to cry at Othello and laugh at Caliban.
I learned to smell one
a mile away:
they contain illustrated catalogs of everything there is to lose.
(Rich, collected early poems)
Americans were introduced to the classical form of ghazals by the poet Agha Shahid Ali, who compared each ghazal stanza to 'a stone of a necklace', which should continue to shine 'in that lively isolation'. Ali's poetry, especially Ghazals, had a remarkable influence on the American poetry scene - Importance of Education.
To find a place for the traditional form of ghazal in American literature, Ali compiled the anthology Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English in 2000. It featured ghazals from 107 poets, including Diane Ackerman, John Hollander, WS Merwin, William Matthews, Paul Muldoon, Ellen Bryant Voigt and many others, some more true to the traditional form than others.
Ali's ghazal "Even the Rain" is excerpt here:
What is sufficient for a real love knot? Even the rain?
But he bought the lottery of grief, even the rain.
"our glosses / wanting in this world" "Do you remember?"
Everybody! "when we thought / the poets learned" even the rain?
After we died - That was it! - God left us in the dark.
And when we forgot about dark, we even forgot about the rain.
The drought was over. Where was I? There were drinks in the house.
For mixers, my dear, you would have poured - what? - even the rain.
In 2001, a year after Ali's anthology, Robert Bly published The Night Abraham Called to the Stars. Bly promoted the book as a collection of ghazals, although the vast majority have no radif and none of the qafia. This book is written in non-metric tercets and not in stanzas and is better remembered for its parody whose title poem is inspired more than anything - New York Clubs.
The American literary scene had to wait another 13 years before it got its first collection of English ghazals from the pen of an American poet who consistently holds fast to the traditional form. With his collection of 52 ghazals titled Lotus Mirage, D Russel Micnhimer finally delivers a book that would guide all future English ghazal writers. Poet and petroglyphs (icons and petroglyphs) expert, Russel has written numerous books, including novels, novels, a poetry collection, and a guide to Rock Art sites. His book Notes to be left with the Gatekeeper from Global Fraternity of Poets, India earned him the title of Poet Laureate from the Dr. Yayati Madan G Gandhi International Poetry Awards. In Lotus Mirage, Russel makes no attempt to adjust the Arabic meters, but he strictly adheres to formal restrictions regarding 'radeef' (final rhyme), 'quafiya' (own rhyme), autonomy of couplets (sher), 'takhallus (pen name) etc. His lines sound with melody and verses echo with metaphorical brilliance - Environment.
Dr. Ashwini Kumar Vishnu, a bilingual poet, critic, translator with several collections of poetry to his name, believes that with this 'diwan' (collection) Russel has joined the celebrated group of poets such as Hafiz, August Graf Platen, Ghalib, Faiz, Dushyant Kumar etc.
Russell's ghazal 'Breath of Wind' came out of this
Jewel fabric lifts sparkling rainbow in the breath of wind
All over the dark sky a big inverted grin, a breath of wind.
Announcement of new joy Beloved makes blossom smile
New appear in notes whistling in the wind.
Nature will not allow our dust to mix; prohibited, unfortunately
All our dreams come together only in an eternal twist, a breath of wind.
As long as there is still air and the voice of men keeps track
Breathe in gifts of clouds, Beloved will win a breath of wind.
Never as long as the same order of Russel lines remains
Intact the name of Beloved will disappear, a breath of wind in this.