Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Out from Otoliths — Sheila E. Murphy's American Ghazals

Now out from Otoliths.

American Ghazals
Sheila E. Murphy
68 pages
Otoliths, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9872010-2-7
$14.45 + p&h

The ghazal is a time-honored literary form dating from 6th century Arabic verse. Successive versions of the form attest to its appeal across numerous cultures and periods of time. Focal themes associated with the form have encompassed divine and earthly love to those of loss, longing, and isolation. Ghazals are voiced and sung in many languages, including Persian, Turkish, and Urdu.

Despite highly specific rules governing the form in its early centuries, more contemporary versions have relaxed such practices. In contemporary English, the self-containment of each couplet offers an appealing potential for discovering subtle relationships among the (minimum of five) different couplets within a single piece. Subliminal echoes of perception and emergent contextual linkages provide a renewal of sensibility for readers of the ghazal.

The pieces in this collection represent a selection of works written as ‘American Ghazals,’ based upon the distinctly American idiom in which the pieces have been developed. The more I read the form in translation and in English, the more apparent the fit of pivotal shifts in language, thought, and content. The American ghazal offers rich practice, replete with political, social, psychological, and meditative states that redefine perceptions in a new century.

Sheila E. Murphy


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