Except for my small collection of copies, Liminalog is out of print. However, it will be re-published as a Kindle book in the near future.
What is a ghazal?
The poems in this collection are based on ancient forms from Persia and Korea. Many of the requirements of the traditional forms have been kept but variations in theme and style reflect the contemporary idiom of those writing in these forms in English.
The ghazal took root in Persia about 1300 years ago. Like a sturdy flowering vine, the form has spread over the world, taking on nurture and nourishment from different countries and times. Although it is not as well known as some forms, many contemporary poets are exploring the alluring possibilities of the ghazal.
Ghazals are written in couplets. The first couplet establishes the tone and the meter. The final couplet allows the writer to make a slightly more personal comment. Traditionally, the last couplet contains the writer’s name or pen name, although this tradition is often not observed by English writers.
In its classical form, each couplet is a complete poem, with no narrative line or overt relationship between the couplets. Additionally, there is no enjambment between couplets. The relationships are of “ravishing disunity,” to use the phrase of a distinguished modern writer of ghazals in English, the late Agha Shahid Ali.
A prominent distinguishing characteristic of the traditional ghazal is the rhyme scheme, with a monorhyme ending both lines of the first couplet and the second line of each couplet thereafter, and a rhyming word or phrase preceding the last word in the final line of each couplet.
Contemporary writers of ghazals are experimenting with variations, especially with alternatives to the rhyme scheme. The hallmark of the form remains, however-- an exciting tension between the allusiveness of the couplets and the discipline of the line endings.
What is a sijo
Sijo is a traditional Korean form, at least a thousand years old. Each of the three lines averages fourteen to sixteen syllables. English writers take this requirement as a guideline, allowing themselves some freedom but maintaining the basic requirement of similar syllabic counts in each line. Lines are often end-stopped although this requirement can be circumvented as long as each couplet has a clearly separate thought.
The sijo’s brevity reminds us of the Japanese haiku but the requirements of the form are different. While the sijo may contain rich, allusive and gorgeous language, its essence is more dramatic. Each sijo is a complete miniature play, with the first line establishing a subject, situation, or problem. The second line begins to turn toward the ending, setting up the resolution which occurs in the third line, which completes the poem. The third line should contain a “twist,” some surprising attitude toward the situation. A strong, surprising or emotional ending is an absolute requirement for a sijo.
Sijo are usually presented as three-line poems, as I have done in Liminalog. Because I typically write with a rather long line, I formatted the ghazals, usually written in two-line shers, in the print publication in four- and six- line stanzas to suit the demands of printing.
"Satisfying the Ghazal Mind,"an essay on various ways to think about the ghazal, first published in Boxcar Poetry Review.
"Thoughts on Nakedness," a ghazal from Liminalog. I had some fun making this one
bi-lingual and filled with double-entendres!
Thoughts on Nakedness
Even the flowers in their riot of shapes and colors will learn un-naked is now fiat,
make-up fine, disguises fun; scent now hidden, unviagrated thorns hors-de-combat.
The rose likes a gauzy little number with sequins. The zinnias go punk. Trees like the shaved Bruce Willis look, dropping their leaves, victims of a sappy coup-d’état.
The League of Decency sells a TV Shroud— little holes cut out where heads appear
so you can avoid naked breasts, inches of skin, and everything else located en bas.
Don’t be alarmed but you’re all sitting there naked under your clothing, often in the company of both sexes, eating cream cake, having tea, an undercover ménage à trois.
Under their habits, nuns, pre-enshrouded, wear push-me-up bras and lace-trimmed thongs, on their way to naked; for those used to their habits, this is mardi-gras.
Nudists order biology books in plain brown wrappers, study internal organs
and circulatory systems; when discovered, look up with a certain amount of éclat.
Tradition had terms of doubtful acceptance in Latin and Greek, for the masses,
but as for l’arbre, her philosophy and way of being is qui mal y pense, honi soit .
Two Sijo from Liminalog
Before I leave for morning prayers, I tear a few pages from my journal.
Who knows if I will return
from such a dread-filled confrontation.
Sometimes God nails you
before you get to the part about bewailing your sins.
If you invite me and the wine is not good, the main course dull,
I will praise the starter, the settings, more than they merit.
Fake, no, but I will be generous, call zephyr gale, shower thunderestorm.