Welcome to the best guide to ghazals

Here you can learn where to get free ghazals on the web

SubmittedThursday, 02 May 2019

Jagjeet Singh’s Ghazals – tribute to a ghazal singer, Jagjeet Singh

Ghazals Lyrics – Hindi Lyrics from bollywood, pop music, ghazals, marriage, love, dance and patriotic

Ravishankar Shrivastava’s – Hindi Gazals

ghazals – hma pr tumharI caah ka

Gujarati Music: Ghazals

IndiaOnline – Bollywood/Mp3 songs

deadevil – ghazals texts

Raaga – Hindi Gazals, Classical Gazals

Indian Melody – Gazals, Old Hindi and regional songs

Urdu Poetry Archive – Ghazal, nazms, urdu poetry

  • Hindilyrix – http://www.hindilyrix.com/
    Provides lyrics to Hindi movie songs, ghazals, bhajans, and other new and old Hindi songs. Also has a message board, some chords, and some Punjabi lyrics.
  • eBazm – http://www.eBazm.com
    Archives of urdu ghazals and hindi poetry. Urdu dictionary with more than 10,000 words.
  • Poetry at Ariadne’s Web – http://www.baymoon.com/~ariadne/
    Resources on writing poetry, including advice on writing Ghazals, Haiku, Pantoums, Sestinas, Sonnets, Triolets, and Villanelles.
  • Vaneeta’s Urdu – English Dictionary – http://urdudict0.tripod.com/
    Urdu words in songs, ghazals, urdu poetry, and day-to-day conversation.
  • Mahal, Minku – http://www.minkumahal.com/
    Female vocalist of Indian descent who, with her band, performs Bollywood hits, ghazals, and instrumentals as well as nightclub songs and current dance hits. Repertoire includes vocals in Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, Bengali and English. Includes bio, photos, booking info and sound demos.
  • Arun’s Homepage – http://www.angelfire.com/space/arun/
    Features his biography, hobbies, poems and ghazals.
  • Urdustan.com: Urdu Portal – http://www.urdustan.com
    World’s first Urdu portal, with free e-mail, web directory, message board, Urdu poetry, ghazals, and information about poets and writers.
  • Ziba Music – http://www.zibamusic.com/
    South Asian music CDs, including bhangra, classical, Hindi, ghazals, qawwalis, nusrat, and instrumental.
  • Desh Videsh – http://www.deshvidesh.com/music/
    Indian Films Songs(New & Old), Ghazals, Indypop music. Regional musics.
  • Sudeep Audio + SurAurSaaz – http://www.sudeepaudio.com/
    Meditation music, folk, garbas, ghazals, classical music, quizzes. Database on equipment suppliers, studios, instrument retailers. Books on Indian music.
  • A1 Lyrics Collection – http://www.geocities.com/dhuka2/
    Lyrics collection of Hindi ghazals, including those of Jagjeet Singh, Chitra, Pankaj Udhas, Gulam Ali.
  • Ghazals of Mirza Ghalib – http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~navin/india/songs/ghalibindex.html
    Ghazals of Mirza Ghalib in ASCII and Devnagri fonts. By Navin Kabra.
  • Radio Hangama – http://radiohangama.no-ip.com
    Live internet radio broadcast featuring songs, ghazals, and entertainment programs.
  • Giitaayan – http://www.panchamonline.com/gaane/
    Over 9000 Hindi film and non-film song lyrics including bhajans, ghazals, geets and pop songs in Roman (iTrans) and Hindi (Nagari).
  • Nita’s Urdu Poetry Archive – http://www.urdupoetry.com
    Ghazals, nazms and other forms of Urdu poetry in transliterated form (Urdu written in English). Indexed by poet name and alphabetically for easy access. Includes a text based search engine.

Here follows a very good essay on Ghazal

«When I say ‘ghazal,’ I mean ‘ghuzzle'»

Copyright © 1996, 1998 by Gene Doty.

Visit The Ghazal Page for original ghazals in English, reviews of books of and about ghazals, essays on the ghazal in English, and a blog related to ghazals and poetry in general.

As more poets use the ghazal form (pronounced «ghuzzle») in English, questions arise as to what an English ghazal will be. In an important and helpful article, Agha Shahid Ali argues for a strict adaptation of the Near Eastern form, including the monorhyme («qafia») and refrain («radif»). On the World-Wide Web, Abhya Avachat gives an almost identical definition, with examples in Hindi.

Based on Ali and Avachat, here are what I understand to be the basic features of a ghazal in Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, etc.:

  • A ghazal is a series of couplets. Each couplet is an independent poem, although a thematic continuity may develop. This feature leads to «jumps» between couplets, a discontinuity similar to the linking in a Japanese renga. According to Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr., what in English is a couplet is, in Persian, one long line with a strong caesura.
  • Traditional themes that focus on romantic love and mysticism.
  • Both lines of the first couplet (called the «matla») and the second line of each succeeding couplet have the same monorhyme («qafia») and refrain («radif»).
  • The refrain (radif) is the same word or short phrase (or even syllable, according to Ali).
  • A. J. Arberry says that each couplet of the Persian ghazal ends in a monorhyme (words ending with the same vowel+consonant combination), but he does not mention the refrain.
  • All the couplets are in the same meter. (Ali does not mention meter.)
  • The poet «signs» the last couplet («makhta») by including her/his name or pen name («takhallus»).

Poems published in English as gazals usually have only the first feature. Agha Shahid Ali insists that a poem cannot be a ghazal without inclusion of all the features. He especially insists on the radif/refrain. Avachat says that sometimes the radif is omitted. John Drury’s description of the form, like others I’ve seen, is not clear on these specifics, but does encourage experimentation.

It is clear that, in Persian, Urdu, Hindi, etc., the ghazals is a specific and demanding form. While I sympathize with Ali’s impatience with American poets using the term for poems that don’t fit the traditional definition, I have some questions and comments about the adaptation of the ghazal to English.

  • If the radif/refrain and qafia/monorhyme are so important, why are ghazals hardly ever translated into English with that form? Arberry’s versions of Rumi and Elizabeth Gray’s version of Hafiz only rarely end each couplet with the same word or phrase. Annmarie Schimmel’s versions of Rumi do make some use of the refrain/radif. I also found an example in the Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics that does translate the radif/refrain and qafia/monorhyme. It’s not a very good English poem.

    Recently I acquired Arberry’s Hafiz: Fifty Poems, which contains older translations of Hafiz’s ghazals by several people. These translators render Hafiz in a number of English forms, but one of them, Walter Leaf, uses all three devices in his versions. (His versions aren’t necessarily the best English poems in the collection). Leaf’s tramslations were originally published in Versions from Hafiz, an essay in Persian metre, in 1898.

  • Agha Shahid Ali does not mention meter at all (even though he denounces «free verse» ghazals). Avachat’s piece says that each couplet («sher») must have the same meter. So does Arberry. With our long tradition of «free» verse in English, I can’t see that anyone is in a position to insist that English ghazals conform to any metrical constraints. (Obviously, meter or rhythm is significant).
  • Avachat emphasizes more clearly than Ali that each couplet must be an independent poem. (He does allow for an overall thematic unity). Is this the core of the «ghazal perspective»? Can this independent linking of couplets be the basis for English ghazals outside the specifics of radif/refrain and qafia/monorhyme? In this connection, I don’t understand Ali’s gratuitous swipe at surrealism. Both the ghazal and surrealism seem to share discontinuity and unexpected juxtapositions. It seems only natural that American poets would frame ghazals in surrealist terms.

    In his Hafiz: Fifty Poems, Arberry says that at the end of his life, Hafiz was «experimenting in a sort of surrealistic treatment of the ghazal»

  • Traditionally, the last couplet of a ghazal contains the poet’s «signature,» the poet’s name or pen-name.This couplet is called the makhta. Should poets writing in English incorporate the signature couplet? A signature sometimes seems precious to me, although it can also effectively conclude the poem.

    Since writing the previous paragraph, I have found the signature couplet much more useful. It adds a completion to the ghazal that is very satisfactory. I’ve revised a few earlier ghazals by adding a makhta to them.

  • What about theme? Should English ghazals be limited to the traditional themes of wine, sexual love, and mystical love? While my own poems deal a lot with love and mysticism, I think the ghazal as an English form should have as wide a range of themes as possible.

I first read about ghazals in Lynx, in a short note which presented them as having «jumps» between couplets. I found the idea provocative; it lead me to write a number of poems which I have called ghazals. Perhaps that is not the best term for these poems, but it does indicate something about their intention. Another poet recognized a poem I read publicly as a ghazal (even though it lacked radif/refrain), which indicates that there is something already recognizable about the ghazal as an English form.

The German Romantics were interested in ghazals. Schlegel and Goethe wrote them. August, Graf Von Platen (1796-1835), published a collection, Ghaselen in 1821. Here is a couplet (matla) from one of his ghazels, with an English translation by Edwin Morgan.

Du bist der wahre Weise mir,
Dein Auge lispelt’s leise mir;

Truest of sages are you to me,
Your eye speaks softly true to me;

Graf von Platen used both both monorhyme/qafia and refrain/radif, and the translator has replicated them in English.

In a recent collection of poems, The Country Without a Post Office, Agha Shahid Ali includes three ghazals. Two of these are original in English. Both use the radif/refrain and one of those, a qafia. Metrically, they are longish (six to seven feet) iambic lines. Both poems are good examples of what a traditional ghazal in English can be.

Hemant Kulkarni, M. D., from Nagpur in Central India, has also shown an interest in ghazals in English and a concern that English ghazals observe the form properly. His essay in Lynx, «The Philosophy of Ghazals,» de-emphasizes the Discontinuity between couplets, stressing that there is «some thread of connection» between successive couplets. A study of the connections between links in traditional renga can suggest some of the ways couplets in a ghazal can connect. Dr. Kulkarni’s essay hasvaluable information and insights.

Dr. Kulkarni’s English ghazals show how the form can look in English. Here are the opening (matla) and closing (makhta) couplets of one of his ghazals:

I hate to think of the day that gives me pain at night
But I still recall the Sun that used to rain at night.
. . . . .
Not only have but live all your dreams dear ‘Friend’
Did Kekule not observe the snakes in chain at night?

Lynx publishes ghazals by several poets, notably William Dennis and Bruce Williams, among others exploring the form in productive ways. Jane and Werner Reichhold are also working with ghazals, as well as encouraging the form in Lynx.

Several well-known poets, including Adrienne Rich, Jim Harrison, and Denise Levertov, have worked at least briefly with ghazals. It seems to me, though, that the more recent poets working with ghazals are engaging the form more seriously than the earlier efforts in English.

The issue of Lynx with Dr. Kulkarni’s essay and ghazals also has an essay by Harsangeet Kaur Bhullar which describes the place of ghazals in Indian and Pakistani popular culture, as well as describing the form.

Having read these various pieces on ghazals, I want to make the following suggestions about ghazals written in English:

  • Poets unfamiliar with traditional ghazals should learn as much as they can about the form in its original cultures and the poets who produced ghazals. I would like to see translations accompanied by literal versions with notes that would help those who don’t know the original language to grasp the form better.
  • Let’s refrain from establishing the definitive ghazal form in English prematurely. As poets writing in English learn more about the form in Persian, Urdu, Hindi, etc., let us experiment with as many possibilities as we can.
  • I would like to see a variety of English gazals, using the monorhyme/qafia and refrain/radif, using other rhyme schemes, no rhyme schemes, using strict meters, loose meters, «free verse,» and so on. Let’s see what the form can do and become in English.
  • Placing the monorhyme/qafia directly before the refrain/radif can easily overload the line in English. Some poets writing English ghazals have experimented with other placements of the monorhyme. I suggest that we have a choice—using either the monorhyme or the refrain. In English, either will carry the ghazal form well. Also, the monorhyme can be placed in midline when there is a refrain, although this placement tends to obscure the monorhyme (which might not always be a bad thing). Translators tend to use monorhyme rather than refrain, which often isn’t even mentioned in discussions of the form.
  • We should maintain the independence of each couplet. It seems to me that the «DisUnities» (Ali’s term) define the stance of a ghazal as opposed to its form. Omit that jump from couplet to couplet and, however well the poet used the radif/refrain, the qafia/monorhyme, and the makhta/signature, I do not think the result would be a ghazal in any sense.
  • Apparently ghazals are not titled. Should English ghazals be titled? Untitled poems in English seem to bother some editors and readers. There is, however, the precedent of haiku and tanka.

    Since writing the paragraph above, I hade decided on the following practice: identifying ghazals with a radif by the radif, much as untitled poems in English are identified by the first line; giving ghazals without a radif a fitting title. (In The Country Without a Post Office, the ghazals are identified only as «Ghazal» in the table of contents and by the first words of the first line in the acknowledgements.) I feel that some kind of title is merited because of the length and density of the ghazal, as opposed to haiku and tanka which are quite brief and have a much different perspective.

  • If it turns out that the English ghazal requires the radif/refrain, the qafia/monorhyme, and the makhta/signature, then perhaps we can devise another term for poems that have a sequence of independent couplets but lack those forms. (Avachat cites the Hindi term for such ghazals: «‘gair-muraddaf Ghazel'»). Free ghazal is a possible term for ghazals without radif or qafia.

I would hate to see the English ghazal so confined by formal restrictions that it would be a minor form, used only for poets to demonstrate their technical cleverness (rather like sestinas or villanelles). I believe the ghazal promises to be a major form in English poetry if given room to sink its roots.

I have been experimenting with the form in a strict sense. I’m finding that selection of the radif/refrain sets an important tone/direction for the poem and helps engage my imagination.

AHA Books Online has just published a collection of 30 of my ghazals. Both free and traditional ghazals are included. There are also what I call «parasyntactic» ghazals, one or two with qafia and radif. The parasyntactic ghazals are composed of individual words selected for sound, rhythm, and connotation, but arranged so that no syntactical structures arise. These ghazals are intended to suggest, to supply the reader’s imagination almost-meaningful (referential) patterns.

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