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Hafez was a Persian lyrical poet who lived in the 14th century, and his Ghazals hold a similar place in Arabic and Iranian culture to that of Shakespeare’s sonnets in British culture. They are classic poems, following a strict metre, rhyme and refrain, often learned by heart. They are also regularly sung; the rhyme letting the listeners know to anticipate the refrain, which they may join in with, so that performing a Ghazal becomes a communal experience. They usually deal with emotions and themes that have a wide resonance: faith, love and, in Khalvati’s case, identity and place.
The fashion of writing ghazals in English is relatively new; the form was introduced to American poetry by Agha Shahid Ali in the 1970s and 80s and Mimi Khalvati is the foremost exponent in British poetry – her past two collections The Chine and The Meanest Flower have several ghazals running alongside traditional English forms such as the sonnet and sestina, exemplifying the meeting of East and West that is significant for her work. Her 'Ghazal: after Hafez' takes both Eastern images of the marketplace, 'the sun in bazaars', and Western country rivers, 'one glimpse of a chine', and blends them to create an idyllic sense of home.
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Mimi Khalvati, Ghazal: After Hafez
Mimi Khalvati reading 'Ghazal: after Hafez':
However large earth's garden, mine’s enough.
One rose and the shade of a vine's enough.
I don’t want more wealth, I don’t need more dross.
The grape has its bloom and it shines enough.
Why ask for the moon? The moon’s in your cup,
a beggar, a tramp, for whom wine’s enough.
Look at the stream as it winds out of sight.
One glance, one glimpse of a chine’s enough.
Like the sun in bazaars, streaming in shafts,
any slant on the grand design’s enough.
When you're here, my love, what more could I want?
Just mentioning love in a line's enough.
Heaven can wait. To have found, heaven knows,
a bed and a roof so divine’s enough.
I’ve no grounds for complaint. As Hafez says,
isn't a ghazal that he signs enough?