Saturday, November 5, 2016

"The Wind Speaks Up" and Other Poems To Order in the Garden of Verse

            There's a certain satisfaction in writing to order.
            Here's my first attempt at a "ghazal," a form that is variously attributed to Arabic poetry, or Persian, or Urdu literature, depending on what reference source you look at. I can't even find the online source I relied on six months ago when I decided to learn what this term meant. (Can it be that people are rewriting the Internet when we're not looking?)
            The notion I gathered then was that the form consisted of couplets, two-line stanzas in each of which the same phrase appears as a refrain.
            The point, as I recall, was to build a structural unifying element into a poem that was allowed to range widely in subject matter. That is, your first couplet and your second couplet may not appear to be on the same subject, yet both will include the same refrain. Oh, also a minimium of five couplets. So, a relatively short poem may ensue, or a relatively long one.
            When I searched today for a simple definition of ghazal, every discussion I found offered some other fillip. For example, a ghazal begins with "a rhyme followed by a refrain." What exactly does that mean?
            I did however find this intriguing statement: While rooted in seventh-century Arabia, the form gained prominence in the thirteenth and fourteenth century thanks to such Persian poets as Rumi and Hafiz. Since I have long wished to have something in common with Rumi -- what poet does not? -- I am cheered by the idea that a connection might be found in the achievement of the ghazal.
            In any event I came up the refrain "the wind speaks up" and placed it in the second line of each couplet. My understanding is that the refrain might appear anywhere within that line -- start, middle, or end -- but in my wind-speaking poem I have placed it at the end of the second line of each couplet, while varying the lead-in word or phrase. That way while the repetition brings a sense of resolution to each couplet's thought, a little variety helps keep us on our toes.
            This technique (repetition, with slight variation) is also clearly visible in song-writing. We know where the verse is ending, but each time (or from time to time) the song gets there by a somewhat different path.
            I also mined the refrain for the title of the poem. When a poetry journal accepted this poem, its editors suggested a slight title change, which I saw as an improvement and happily adopted.
            Here's the beginning of "The Wind Speaks Up":

All day so quiet I can hear the pages turning
Rumble of a distant train, till the wind speaks up

The guitars of the mind let the season unwind
Rapture of the sacred heart when the wind speaks up

             You cand read the rest of this short poem in the recently published third issue of the highly attractive South Florida Poetry Journal. Here's the link:

            Two other recent publications in visually attractive journals have points of origin in a structural or thematic "prompt."
            Postcard Poems and Prose last week published in its striking "postcard style" layout a poem that was based on a painting... after another poet had written a very good poem on that very work of art. In short, a twice-removed "response" poem.
            The poem, titled "Rain. Steam. Speed" responds to a painting of a locomotive by Turner. You can read it here:
            To read the poem by Sonia Greenfield that gave me this subject idea, go to:
            Finally, last month an anthology consisting entirely of poems responding to the wondrous photographs of the artist Beth Moon published my poem "Rilke's Bayon: Everywhere," based on her photo of a bayon tree. In fact, the anthology published a half dozen poems responding to that photo. Here's a link to the page:
            This entire publication is a beautiful piece of work filled with Moon's unearthly photos of uniquely amazing creations of planet Earth. If you wish to see the book, titled  "Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees," from the beginning here's the link: