I’ve been interested in the ghazal as a form for a long time, an interest that was awakened by Adrienne Rich’s free-verse ghazals on one hand, and on John Hollander’s witty exposition-by-example of the “formal” ghazal in his prosody handbook Rhyme’s Reason. For me, as for many others, the interest took focus with Aga Sháhid Ali’s work in the form, and with his essay on the ghazal tradition, which appears, in different versions, in the anthology Ravishing Disunities and in the essay anthology An Exaltation of Forms.
Unmistakable, that consummate style
pierces the incoherence of her late style.
One of them liked to tease out a game for hours;
the other had an eight-minute-check-and-mate style.
Count stresses; number feet: you’ve got the meter,
but there’s no metronome to calibrate style.
Words from a dictionary; form-schemes from a textbook
provide a trot; they don’t translate style.
The urban innocent, one more gay man
whose fantasy and flesh respond to straight style.
And here is one more student shy of reading
the classics, for fear that they’ll contaminate style.
Always clumsy performing virtue, he
accomplished wickedness with great style.
Bombast and pieties in primary colors:
“Hallmark’s” the hallmark of the state style.
Events exceed what verse can render,
or even prose: you start to hate style.
If there isn’t a damned thing left to say
that’s not been said, mark time and cultivate style.
Marilyn Hacker‘s most recent book of poems is A Stranger’s Mirror (W. W. Norton & Company).
This poem appeared in Poetry Northwest Spring & Summer 2006.