The ghazal allows the imagination to move by its own nature: discovering an alien design, illogical and without sense—a chart of the disorderly, against false reason and the tacking together of poor narratives. It is the poem of contrasts, dreams, astonishing leaps. The ghazal has been called “drunken and amatory” and I think it is. But what is a ghazal, exactly? And why do poets like Agha Shahid Ali claim so vehemently that those writing in English (who often mispronounce the form as “gazelle;” it’s closer to the word “guzzle”) are pillaging a literary museum to exoticize its artifacts? You can’t stuff whatever you want into a ghazal, he says; it’s a form that’s bigger than you are. “The ghazal is not an occasion for angst,” he says, “it is an occasion for genuine grief.” It’s not amorphous, but precise. Not eagerly waiting to be filled, but fighting against lazy egotism.
- Rob Winger, "A Brief History of the Canadian Ghazal," from the ghazal-crazy Summer 2009 issue of Arc. The first part of the full article can be read here.