Ghazal is an old form, originated in 7th-century Arabia. It made its way to other parts of the world, especially to South Asia, and to the Western world.
The form is composed of a string of couplets, at least five to, in practice, about 15-20 couplets. Each couplet is autonomous and the ghazal can be and is usually disjunctive. Meaning the couplets are not necessarily thematically tied. Thus, each couplet in essence is a self-contained “poem” in itself.
The Ghazal does follow a form, the first couplet is called a maqta, sets the rhyme (called qafiyah) and the refrain (called a radif) and is used in both lines. To illustrate, here is a maqta from one of my poems – Narcissus:
In the meadow, delighting hearts, that’s my mesmer self
Swaying in the spring zephyr, that’s my dancer self
The rhyme precedes the refrain, which in this case, the words: mesmer and dancer. And refrain – self – ends the lines.
In subsequent couplets, only the second line of the couplet repeats the rhyme and the refrain. To illustrate from the same poem:
When in vacant mood, feeling the blues, recall
My six petals around yellow corona, my charmer self.
The last line, called a matla of the ghazal is special, as the poet, incorporate his/her name or a pseudonym in a clever way. Again to illustrate from the same poem, I used my pseudonym ‘Mirage’:
What is ‘Mirage’, what is maya, what is real?
Gazing in the watery mirror, I am contemplating my truer self.
So there you have it, if you were curious.