Spotlight on Forms: What is a Ghazal?

Previously on our blog, we’ve discussed what makes slam poetry what it is, as well as what makes an acrostic poem what it is. This week, we shift our focus to a poetic form imported from far away: the ghazal. A ghazal (pronounced like “guzzle”) is a traditional poetic form coming from 7th-century Arabia. Over the centuries, the ghazal endured and spread to country after country. Read on to learn more about this unique poetic form!ghazal

Where Did the Ghazal Come From?

The ghazal, like many traditional poetic forms, originated as a spoken art form. Iranian, Indian, and Pakistani musicians would sing ghazals that evoked emotions related to love and loss. The tradition of the ghazal were passed down from there to other countries throughout the Middle East and Asia and into many different languages, including Urdu, Persian, Turkish, Pashto, Hebrew, and Hindi.

What Makes a Ghazal a Ghazal?

Ghazals, like other poetic forms, have a specific set of rules that define them. Ghazals are a collection of couplets, typically between five and fifteen couplets total. These couplets should be able to read as independent units; the couplets themselves can read as mini-poems. While there is no set meter in English to apply to a ghazal, the lines of the couplets generally stay around the same length. The first couplet of the ghazal ends sets up what will be the rhyme scheme that applies to the rest of the poem; it will end with a word that will recur at the end of each subsequent couplet throughout the rest of the poem. In addition to this rhyme scheme, the ghazal’s final couplet must include the poet’s name in some variation as a kind of “signature.”

Who Are Some Famous Poets Who Wrote Ghazals?

With such a long history behind the ghazal, it comes as no surprise that they have been written by many renowned poets. A few famous authors of ghazals include:





-Agha Shadid Ali

Will you one day be named on this list? Try writing your own ghazal in accordance with the rules of the form. While traditional themes of ghazals include love and sadness, you can write one focusing on any topic you choose. If you like what you write, consider submitting it to our poetry contest and show your work to the world!


This entry was posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 at 3:38 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.