Poetry Friday: A Ghazal Challenge

The Inklings are kicking off September with ghazals. Margaret challenged us to write a poem using this complex form about a month ago. I’ve been playing with ideas ever since, but really struggled to get something to gel. Even after settling on a topic and rhyme scheme, I still haven’t adhered strictly to the rules. I also have to confess that some of these stanzas are reworkings of poems I’ve shared previously. (School began this week and I moved classrooms. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) Here is my very rough “Ghazal of Rivers.”

Flowing at a brisk pace, Quononoquetti*, long tidal river 
moved people from place to place: ancient Pequot river. 

Sinuous canyons carved with a sculptor’s grace and precision;
grain by grain, sandstone washes away, effaced by the river.

History is hard to trace when dams are built to harness power
entire towns are erased, drowned beneath a now-tame river.

Paddlers in canoes and kayaks chase thrills and adventure,
seek glory and fame when they race on a rapid-rich river.

I embrace my fears, watch tongues of water curl,
create space and listen to tales of the river.

* now know as Connecticut

Draft, © 2021, Catherine Flynn

Connecticut Greenway State Park (which, ironically, is in Massachusetts!)
by Tom Walsh, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Please be sure to visit by fellow Inklings, including this week’s Poetry Friday hostess, Heidi Mordhorst, to read their very fine Ghazals!

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi Morhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

15 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: A Ghazal Challenge

  1. I thought for a moment this was my kayak on my creek… til I realised the colour/shape of the bow was wrong. Lovely photo. In an earlier comment today, I mentioned that I might try a ghazal. Beginning to think that was a bad comment to make. These things look tricky! Love your last stanza; those tongues of water curl, especially.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this! That first stanza, with the land/ancestor acknowledgement, the beauty of nature/the destruction of humans, and the interaction with the river…brilliant FLOW!! I also love the economy of reusing bits of previous poems. You made it happen AND you changed rooms AND you started school. Well done!

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  3. I love this, Catherine, and agree with Mary Lee that the flow is fabulous! You’ve got lovely word choice throughout. The phrase “drowned beneath a now-tame river” grabbed me — it holds so much tension. Congrats on starting the school year and completing a ghazal! Moving classrooms just adds another layer of fun to the mix 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. THIS stanza…is Catherine-genius at work. I love it.
    “History is hard to trace when dams are built to harness power
    entire towns are erased, drowned beneath a now-tame river.”
    Aren’t you glad you conquered a ghazal? I am. I feel accomplished…and now I want to write more!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your photo makes me think that it’s a good place to be, Catherine. I like that you wrote “entire towns are erased, drowned beneath a now-tame river.” We have a dam & an “erased” town in the Summit ski county, often written about with sadness. I like what you wrote about rivers, important in our lives, ever-changing as you showed. I imagine you’ll be glad this week is nearly over, first week & changing classrooms is tough work!

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  6. I didn’t get a chance to see this in rough draft. You’ve put the puzzle together nicely. I like the rhyme sitting internally rather than next to the ending phrase. This is my favorite couplet for its poignant truth: “History is hard to trace when dams are built to harness power
    entire towns are erased, drowned beneath a now-tame river.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think you’ve done an amazing job with a very challenging form! Hats off to you and all the poets that took this on. I love the internal rhyme with words like space/chase/race – they set up a momentum that pulled me through the poem like the current of a river.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Elisabeth noticed what I did, Catherine–that your rhymes are not consistently positioned according to the rules, but that they carry subtle music: placed, effaced, erased, etc. I’m also very fond of your “rapid-rich river” and the idea that turbulence can be a form of richness. Under the demanding circumstances you have pulled it off with aplomb!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Catherine, I am so glad that Janice Scully mentioned your ghazal in her PF post today. I have not had a chance to keep up with everyone’s blogs and wanted to see all. I do like your format, flow, and content. It provided me with a sense of history. Your efforts to adhere to form are noted but so is your take on how YOUR poem flows. I really like these lines:
    Sinuous canyons carved with a sculptor’s grace and precision;
    grain by grain, sandstone washes away, effaced by the river.
    and your ending.
    I hope your school year will go well. Changing rooms is disconcerting at first until you make it your own, which you will do for your learners.

    Liked by 1 person

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