The Ghazal is increasingly becoming popular in the Western world, especially America where the assimilation of different cultures has resulted in the appreciation and adaptation of other literary forms. Ghazals appeared in American poetry en route Urdu poetry through the translations of works of prominent Urdu ghazal writers. As far back as 1969, ghazal poetry was introduced to the American literary scene by the Pakistani-American poet Aziz Ahmed with the publication of the book subtitled Ghazals of Ghalib. Inspired by the new poetic genre, several American poets experimented with the form but the metrical complexity of the ghazal offered resistance to complete mastery of the form in English language. Writers like Adrienne Rich, Judith Wright, Jim Harrison, John Thompson, D.G. Jones, Phyllis Webb, Douglas Barbour, and Max Plater among others emulated the ghazal form. However, coupled with the lack of understanding of the original form and of the native culture in which it evolved, the ghazal remained an enigma for the American ghazal writers.
All around me were half-slaughtered victims of love,
tossing about in agony.
and tulip-like face,
Ruthlessly playing havoc with the hearts of the lovers.
oh Khusro, where (the face of) the Prophet too was shedding light like a candle.
|Mirza Assadullah Khan Ghalib|
The ghazal is a conversation between lovers with strict form bound by rules and containing from a minimum of five to a maximum of seventeen couplets. All couplets share the same meter and follow a strict rhyme scheme, aa, ba, ca, da, etc. Thus, the unity in the ghazal is achieved by form not by content: “a ghazal is thus a series of couplets. Each couplet is a self sufficient unit, detachable and quotable, generally containing the complete expression of an idea.” The strict adherence to form is a serious challenge for modern American poets writing in free verse, but a greater test is in understanding the ambiguous nature of relationship between the lover or poet persona and the beloved in Urdu ghazal. These gaps in understanding and interpretation of Urdu ghazal arose due to the ignorance of oriental culture and its values.
|Faiz with wife|