Are you ready for the final decastitch challenge? That’s right! We have come to the end of our study of 10-line poems! If you missed any of the earlier studies and would like to check them out, just click on the “About Poetry” tab in the menu on my home page. In the drop-down list, select “Decastich (10-Line Poems).” They are all there. I’ve been working on reorganizing my blog to make it easier to navigate, but if you have any trouble, let me know and I’ll try to help.
The Ghazal (pronounced Guzzle) is a rhyming form that consists of an odd number of couplets, with a minimum of five and a maximum of twenty-five. It originated in Arabia, where it typically dealt with the pain of love (especially lost love) combined with the beauty of love. The Persians adapted the Ghazal to their own use, with some considerable deviations. When we speak of the Ghazal today, we generally refer to the Persian form. Goethe introduced this form to the Western world.
The guidelines for the Ghazal are rather strict, even more strict than the Stress Matrix Dectet, which is why I have saved this form for last in my study of the decastich forms. I certainly consider this to be one of the most challenging, if not the single most challenging form I have come across to date. But having studied the others, I’m ready to put my pen to the test. Are you?Let’s examine the requirements for the Ghazal in depth.
As stated above, the theme is love, and specifically lost love or pain in a relationship. But this may also be combined with the beauty of love.
A true Ghazal may have as few as 5 couplets (10 lines) or as many as 25 couplets (50 lines), but always it will have an odd number of couplets (hence, an even number of lines). For the purpose of this challenge, we will stick with 5 couplets.
All the couplets must be closed couplets. In other words, they should be able to stand alone as a two-line poem. Enjambment across couplets is not permitted. Additionally, it should be natural to hear a pause at the end of the first line of the couplet, whether or not a comma is used. That said, the couplets may be connected by theme even while they maintain their independence.
This is a rhyming form. In fact, there is internal rhyme and end rhyme. I’ll explain it here, but it will make much more sense once you look as my samples to see this demonstrated.
In reality, the first line is the only odd-numbered line that has rhyme, and it rhymes with the refrain. In fact, it often is the refrain, though it doesn’t have to be. The other rhymes, indicated by b,c,d,e in the rhyme scheme, occur only once in the poem, so the rhyme scheme might just as well be written AA xA xA xA xA.
But there is also the matter of internal rhyme. It is actually a monorhyme, as all the words immediately preceding the refrain have the same rhyming sound. To be honest, for some of these stanzas, I flipped through my rhyming dictionary looking at families of rhyming words, picked rhyming sounds for which I found 6 words that I thought I could use together, and I wrote my poem around those 6 words. From those 6 words, I first drew the refrain, and then the rest of the stanza came together quite easily.
The end rhyme is also a monorhyme, but it’s actually fairly simple because it is merely a refrain of one to three words that appears in both lines of the first couplet and is repeated in the second line of every subsequent couplet. The challenge is rhyming the words that appear just before the refrain (the internal rhyme). But if you can create end rhyme, then you can also create internal rhyme. It sounds more complex than it actually is. Besides, I gave away my trade secret in the paragraph above. ☺
There is no prescribed meter for the Ghazal, but every line should have the same length, at the poet’s discretion. In other words, you decide how long or short you want your lines to be; but once you decide, you must use the same number of syllables in every line. This is called isosyllabic writing (literally “equal syllable”).
The author’s name or pen name traditionally appears in the last line. Sometimes there is merely an allusion to the name, but often it is overtly stated. For instance, as Linda Luna, I may say something about a “pretty moon.”
In summary, the Ghazal is:
- A decastich (10-line poem) written as five closed couplets (in its minimum length).
- The theme is love, particularly the pain of love.
- The lines are isosyllabic (all the same length).
- The couplets contain internal monorhyme and a refrain.
- Rhyme scheme: AA bA cA dA eA or aA bA cA dA eA
- The author’s name or pen name appears in the last line, or at least a reference to it.
Below are two samples for you. To apply what I learned about the Ghazal, I wrote five separate 10-line stanzas that are connected by a theme and tell a story when read together. These samples are two “chapters” in my Ghazal story. Sorry, but I’m not going to share the other three at this time because I’m saving them for a printed collection that I plan to publish (someday).
To help you find the necessary elements in the poems below, I’ve marked them as follows:
- The refrain lines are underlined.
Notice my treatment of the refrain in the two poems. In “Evanescence,” it appears exactly the same on every line. But in “Evacuation,” the refrain in the first line is slightly different from the others. That’s okay.
- The internal monorhyme is in bold.
All my internal rhymes are exact or close.
- My pen name (or a reference to it) is in italics.
In “Evanescence,” I wrote my pen name (one of them) overtly; but in “Evacuation,” I referred to the meaning of the name. The name Abigail means “father’s joy.” I took a part of that and put it in the final line of the stanza. Not everyone would pick up on it, but that’s okay.
- It’s not marked, but I thought I’d point out that every line is isosyllabic. In the first poem, every line has 14 syllables; the second is written with 12-syllable lines.
The dawning sky with all its brilliant hue will soon be gone
The rugged mountains’ misty morning view will soon be gone
We take an early morning stroll, return with dampened feet
The diamond-droplets of the daily dew will soon be gone
We stand there in the sunlight, let our bodies melt to one
The warm embraces of two sweethearts true will soon be gone
We cuddle playfully, while mindful of your weakened state
The universe of joy that once we knew will soon be gone
We snuggle on the love seat then to watch the flickering flames
I’ll miss you so, sweet Abigail, for you will soon be gone
Copyright © 2018 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved
Oh, how painful was the subtraction of my love!
I remain as but a fraction without my love
The agony resounds within my hollow heart
How deeply sounds the abstraction without my love
The morning dawns. I rise. But where am I to go?
I walk in a great distraction without my love
The mirror tells me I may follow her ere long
Aghast at my own reaction without my love
But she is gone, and I am left to live alone
Can I seek joy, satisfaction without my love?
Copyright © 2018 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved
It’s Your Turn!
Now it’s time for you to write a Ghazal. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Choose your topic. If you need an idea, check out the prompts at the Daily Post.
- May I suggest you write on a piece of paper or in a notebook.
- Down the left column write the number 10 ten times.
- Down the right column, write the rhyme scheme, with one letter per line.
- It might help to also circle the odd numbers in the left column to remind yourself that those lines will be written in iambic rhythm, and the evens in trochaic (or write an I and a T next to the numbers, alternately).
- Then carefully choose your words to flesh out your poem. Do not use filler words, but come up with exactly 10 syllables for each line. Make sure your stressed syllables are where they belong. No substitutions are allowed in this form.
- And of course, when you are finished, share your poem with the rest of us.
Don’t know how? Follow these simple steps…
- Write your blog post.
- Include the tag Decastich Challenge or 10LPC
- Publish your post on your blog.
- Come back here and click the blue button below to add your link to the others.
To find more samples and to learn from those who taught me, check out these sites. All links open in a separate tab so you can easily find your way back here.
Poet’s Collective ~ This is where I learned about the Stress Matrix Dectet form.
Sol Magazine ~ This resource covers much more than just 10-line poems.
“Metric Forms from Pathways for the Poet” ~ This is an outline of information from Pathways for the Poet by Viola Berg (1977), a book for and by educators. This resource also includes more than just 10-line poems, but it helped to fill in the gaps where my other sources were a bit scanty with their information.
Shadow Poetry ~ This is my favorite resource for learning about poetic forms (and not just the decastich), but I have discovered that there is ever so much more to learn than what I can find here. This is, however, a very good place to start.