stray notes on the ghazal (pt. 3)

January 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

1. The ghazal, as it has taken root in North America (the free verse ghazal, the ‘bastard’ ghazal, the ‘anti-ghazal’) privileges randomness, the disunity and illogicality of the couplets, as a release from thematic unity. Formal adherence to the radif might create, if done well, necessary tension — a pull against the random. 

2. Pound’s ideogrammic method is at work: Iron rust. Rose. Cherry. Flamingo. Both within and across couplets.

3. And Eliot’s objective correlative: “The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate a sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”

4. Lists take precedence:

“Crazy squash, burnt tomatoes, char of poems, sour milk,
a candle gone down: is this my table?”  (Stilt Jack VII)

5. Andy Weaver describes the importance of the gap between couplets. This is crucial. A musical and conceptual interval or gauge, which must be finely judged by the poet, and for which there can be no rules.

6. Weaver also describes his experience of writing ghazals as analogous to carpentry. Couplets like driftwood he collects and then fits together. Perhaps gathering works here too. What is found in the world is gathered and held in couplets like baskets.

7. Webb uses internal rhyme and initial/terminal homonyms and homophones as ghostly echo of the qafia and radif. Here/hear. Leaves/leaves. Time/time.

8. What is truly desired is language. Language registers absence.
The beloved is a woman, is a man, is a body of language.

9. The ghazal as field notes, as transcription: each couplet the trace of a single moment.

10. These moments are plotted on an emotional plane. Paradigmatic axis (individual couplets); syntagmatic axis (their cumulative effect; a kind of jagged, dreamlike syntax).

11. The bass note is grief.

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