Poetry Friday: Ghazal for Your Cats

Jennyanydots (6 lbs) in her 21st and final year in 2008, and Hemingway (14 lbs) currently in his prime.

Margaret gave the Inklings quite a challenge this month! We wrote ghazals, (Hindi: ग़ज़ल, Arabic: غَزَل‎, Bengali: গজল, Urdu: غزَل, Persian: غزل‎, Azerbaijani: 
qəzəl, Turkish: gazel, Uzbek: gʻazal, Gujarati: ગઝલ) an ancient Arabic poetry form with five delightfully complicated rules.

I found Ravishing DisUnities by Agha Shahid Ali VERY helpful. This collection of ghazals by 100+ poets (including Diane Ackerman, W.S. Merwin, and Maxine Kumin, just to name a few of the poets whose names I recognized) helped me to suss out the form, AND provided all kinds of variations on the form.

Heidi has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at my juicy little universe, and here are all the other Inklings’ ghazals:

(An aside, related to Bridget’s post about DuoLingo. I’m learning Spanish and Arabic and reviewing my rusty German with DuoLingo. Current status: 90 day streak. When I pasted in “ghazal” in all those different languages (thank you, Wikipedia), I was startled to realize that I can ALMOST read the Arabic! I haven’t learned the “gh” character yet, but I know the little accent mark above it means short a, I know z (with another short a), and I just learned l. WOW!)

19 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Ghazal for Your Cats”

  1. As a lifelong cat lover, this ghazal hits home. I could relate to all of it. I laughed at “once again, delayed by a cat” and felt the heartache of that final line. You nailed the form here, Mary Lee, and made it look effortless! Oh, and I love seeing the pictures of those two fine felines– Hemingway is too chill! lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wooty woot woot for your language learning and Ghazal, Mary Lee! An 80-day Duolingo streak is nothing to sneeze at – neither is 14-lbs of Hemingway. (unless you’re allergic 😉 )
    In any language (and especially in this form) your poem is a lovely tribute to Hemingway and Jennyanydots. (love this name – there has to be a story here)

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    1. She was named after one of the cats in T.S. Eliot’s OLD POSSUM’S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS, “The Old Gumbie Cat.” She got her name from the first lines of the poem:
      “I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
      Her coat is of the tabby kind, with tiger stripes and leopard spots.”

      But I’m reading through the whole poem now and lo and behold, there’s another story about her to fe found late in the poem:
      “But when the day’s hustle and bustle is done,
      Then the Gumbie Cat’s work is but hardly begun.
      She thinks that the cockroaches just need employment
      To prevent them from idle and wanton destroyment.”

      There was that time when she knocked the critter-cage of Madagascar hissing roaches off the top of the dresser, but when we came home and discovered this, we found her keeping them all (ALL!!) corralled in one spot for us!

      What a cat she was!!!


      1. Holy wow on multiple levels, Mary Lee! From Eliot to “the critter-cage of Madagascar hissing roaches” being corralled! I’m glad I asked. 🙂


  3. Great ending, Mary Lee.
    Congrats on your streak! I added reviewing French and Spanish to my Duolingo studies for when Scottish Gaelic is too hard. I am very impressed by your Arabic learning!
    Your Hemingway is the same weight as my pup Preston, but Preston is probably much smaller because he’s not fluffy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OK, that story about the cockroaches is the best! As I read your ghazal, one of my kids peeked in my room to see if the cat was with me. Hahahaha. What is it about loving having a cat around? They are the best company, I think. Great ghazal that rings true, truer, truest!

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  5. You’ve touched my heart with your Jennyanydots, brought memories of my own, too, no matter the mess, purring is best! Love reading about the roaches.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this poem and plan to email it to my friend who has 10 cats. We only have 3 but with our kids home, there are now 4. I love the sarcastic tone. There is so much to love and hate about cats.

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  7. Your ghazal is a perfect tribute to the cats we love, complicated as that love is. Your last line is my favorite. Good for you on your language studies. It’s always frustrated me that I remember so little of my high school Spanish!


  8. Your poem is a wonderful distillation of life with a cat, even the sense of loss we feel when they leave us. Kudos for taking on this challenging form (and wow! I’m impressed by all the languages you’re learning).


  9. Cats and their stories, yes, but what I want to notice is both how successful you are here with your enjambment project, AND with the ghazal characteristic of stanzas that are “structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous.” Each stanza evokes a distinct emotion, hits in a unique linguistic register. I’m sure all your time with DuoLingo is having multiple effects!


  10. Perfect cat ghazal! We were only cat owners for a very short time, but your words ring true, especially the part about hunting constantly for the cat and thinking, again and again, that it’s gone for good this time.. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com


  11. What a ghazal! You captured life with a cat so well, right down to the piteous howling late in life. (We’re there with our 18-yr. old kitty.)

    This form is so intriguing — I need to file it away and be sure to play with it at some point. Thank you!


  12. Wow, what a beauty. I love the subtle rhymes before “of a cat.” You show the joy and pain of loving another living creature like Jennyanddots. Thank you for all the extra teaching about ghazals here. Congrats on all your language learning.


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