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Image from blogspot Crazy Little Thing Called Life

Image from blogspot Crazy Little Thing Called Life

The following collection of three-line verses is called a ghazal. Wikipedia defines this 6th century Arabic form as “a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain.” The rules of meter and rhyme, depending on the century and the culture (ghazals are popular in Persian, Turkish, and many Indian languages, as well) are stringent and, to my western tin ear, beyond all hope of comprehension and attempt.

Fortunately, my introduction to ghazals came by way of the Minnesotan poet of Scandinavian stock, Robert Bly, who like several of his American contemporaries has no fear of poetic pioneering, of inhabiting a form and then calling it his own. Bly’s ghazals, as in his collection, My Sentence was a Thousand Years of Joy, are three-line, free verse narratives, connected by an emotional theme. His are six stanzas long, a length that works for me too. I tend to write ghazals when the build-up of astonishment at the behaviour of my fellow humans reaches critical point. They function, one might say, as looseners of the pressure valves in the boiler room of my soul.


The Wild Life Preservation Society invited me to be their keynote speaker,
which surprised me because I have almost no working knowledge of narwhals
or pandas. Even when she told me, we’re mostly cougars, I still didn’t get it.

Stirring up new hubble and bubble from scratch isn’t easy, but it may be your
best bet in dealing with fairy god boyfriends who show up out of nowhere with
messages like, you should write a book, be a model, start your own planet.

I wanted to ask the woman who wore her hair tight like Evita Peron’s if she
too found the notion of preserving one’s wildness oxymoronic, but then I grew
distracted by the way she doled punch from a ladle like a Rolex river wheel.

Years ago, I attended a reception for writers of romance where the servers
were half naked men, buffed and oiled and willing to pose. That half the women
threw snitty fits considering they prosed sex for a living, I never understood.

A boatman in Kurdestan who may have been a Sufi told me that women in the
harems of the Ottoman Empire loved their jobs for the security, the benefits
and the low demands. I asked him if that was why we call raisins sultanas.

Whoever convinced men and women that we must be sources of boredom
and strife, one to the other, was a pickler by trade—had to be. Loosening jars
from the inside isn’t hard, and all the virgin forests have grown in again.

© Elaine Stirling, 2013