Wednesday 23 September 2009

Improv Challenge Day Four

(the backup team?)

Dave, normally a very gentle man who lives in a beautiful and remote corner of Ireland and is known to make very good bread, has decided to enter into the spirit of the improvisation challenge that is currently occupying these posts.

The initial idea, foolishly launched a few days ago, is explained in detail here, but to sum up - anyone can offer a suggestion as to the nature/structure/content/whatever and I have to write around it.

Results of this process so far are here, here and here.

Dave, who also is known to be a cantankerous beast at the best of times, has threatened our friendship by suggesting this.

“Your mission should you choose to accept it:

"Write a Ghazal."

"I know this is not really an impro but in a way it is, within a very constrained structure. If you want a direction from me; I would like the poem to be self referential as you can.”

Dave then goes on to enlighten me, and if you have a short attention span I suggest you skip the next (very long) paragraph - although you will probably, like me, need to read it in order to make any sense of what follows.

• In case you had forgotten for a second: 'The Ghazal is an ancient verse-form originating in Persia. It has more or less strict rules of composition. It should consist of between five and fifteen couplets, called sher. The couplets, and the lines within them, should be of uniform meter. In English this is usually taken to mean that the number of "feet" or stressed syllables should be uniform, although in the traditional Persian ghazal it is the number of syllables in each line that should be the same.

Sentences should not be split across couplets. In fact each couplet should stand on its own.

The last part (one or more words) of the second line of each couplet or sher should be the same. This is called the radif. The radif should also be "announced" as the last part of the first line (or the first sher). It then becomes a sort of leitmotiv or unifying theme for the whole ghazal. In my ghazal the radif is the phrase No need for words.

The last word before the first radif sets a rhyme called the qaafiyaa. So the last word before the radif in each second line should rhyme with this initial qaafiyaa. My qaafiyaa are the rhymes found, sound, around, etc.

Traditionally a ghazal does not have a title and the poet's name is not mentioned explicitly. Instead the poet "signs" the ghazal by a more or less cryptic reference to himself or herself in the last couplet of the ghazal.

There is guidance too about content. While each sher should stand as a separate poem, there can be a unifying theme across the whole ghazal. Lorna Crosier has written, "By the tenth century when ghazals became conventionalized, along with the common themes of love and wine, the Persian courts called for the appearance of stock images such as roses, nightingales, deserts and departing caravans."

I think you'll agree that’s as clear as mud.

Dave, fearing a public backlash posted this challenge in my email, which obviously contravenes all established improvisation challenge conventions and so I felt no compulsion to indulge his outrageous demands.

But he insisted, and posted the challenge to the official location - the comments to Down the Rabbit Hole and then started a systematic campaign of pressure.

He even suggested that i was chicken to ignore him and closed with a helpful -

"Maybe avoid the roses, nightingales, deserts and departing caravans but that's up to you... "

Well at least he didn't ask me to write it in Persian.

Here goes.........

It’s down to Dave that i do this, getting grease upon my el-bow
With plaintiff NIGHTINGALE music, from a violin-in-hell’s bow .

Passion unrequited, a DEPARTING out-of-love hobo
Offering strangers chocolates, boxed with a ROSE pink above-bow.

Cupid strikes him dumb now, shooting arrows from his long bow
Down the DESERT pub to drown his sorrows, in a pint or this old Strongbow.

One more CARAVAN, of awful rhyming Jumbo
Then at last relief, from Persian mumbo-jumbo.

The French call lost love - “le pier de touts les bobos”
The pain, self inflicted, between une fille et ses beaux, beaux.


Dave said...


Well done.

I must say it adheres more or less to the form. I wonder which the 'more or less cryptic reference' to you is but I'll have to let that pass.

I also wonder what the 'systematic campaign of pressure' was, unless you are unusually sensitive to me not sending you emails?

I could ask for a re-run as, using French in the last two lines is clearly outside the stated rules, which was to write in one language or another, not both.

I suppose you would consider improvising with the rules, the form and the content are all equally valid.

Good luck with today's challenge.

popps said...

More or less?!! MORE OR LESS??!!
Look sunshine , i took the whole rotten Radif thing and completely reinvented the thing in a way the Persians never even thought about.
I announced it where it was meant to be announced and then not ONLY used it as a leitmotiv but built the whole Ghazal around the concept!
My Radif was the same sound but a whole new meaning in every Sher!!
Even in another Language!
And the Qaafiyaa are there too!
el, hell, love, above,long. strong,jumbo.mumbo,bo, beaux!
Ok i only did 5 out of a possible 15 Sher but i had to do the washing up too.
Two languages?
Look mate if you don't stipulate that at the beginning you can't turn round and gripe about it after.
AND i got the nightingales and the rest of the sandy mob in there while respecting the meter.
Can't see the cryptic reference ?
That's cos it's cryptic!
Do i have to spell it out?
Not only is there the required last Cher reference - French (i'm here) and "Bobo" a French word only teachers and children use - i'm a teacher and a dad.....but look at those initial letters in the Qaafiyaa.
(the)Ever Happy Loving Adams Likes.(the) South (and) Juggling, (his) Missus (and) Both (his) Babies.
How did you miss it!!!!!!
AND, AND - the Nightingale etc etc
NDRDC - nicely doing rotten dave's Challenge.

Dave said...