Home » About the Form Ghazal

About the Form Ghazal

Ghazal is an old poetry 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 and not more than 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 is, in essence, 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 about the form.

For additional understanding of the form, you can also access this link on poets.org or on Poetry Foundation.