Teaching the Ghazal in Class

Last week I was subbing at the Vrije Universteit for the Genre, Literature and Analysis class for the Bachelor First Year course. I was teaching the villanelle and ghazal, which involved aspects of the forms as well as close reading.

I found myself in a room full of bright, intelligent, engaged, and wise students. They had such an open and generous approach towards art, history, poetry, and literature. So very refreshing in a day and age when we find senas chasing after their five-minutes, there is hope, if not out there then surely in the classroom. And, I hold on to it, knowing it might change, shift, congeal but for now it is intact. It is these moments that keep me going, hold the cynicism in check, and permit me to soar, albeit momentarily.

For the ghazal class the students wrote a ghazal. We avoided the insistence on beher and concentrated on multiplicity of meaning and power play (keeping in mind the hunt idiom), the rejection of rhyme in some couplets has been deliberate, and the two takallhus were names of their fellow students – chosen because of their diverse allusions.

I enjoyed and relished their couplets with unabashed glee and wanted to share them with you.

Group 1
Rhyme: -ing
Refrain: class
Takallhus: Blessing
Class Ghazal

The professor starts the day with a greeting for our class
Tardy students roam the hallways retreating to class

the bell is ringing again
the students were back to competing in class

The elite, blind to the suffering of others
The impossible hierarchy, come to be the sleeping class

One broken, clever soul,
has to compete in class

A pearl born from an oyster, attended by the wind, Venus inherits glory and glitter
The Golden world reminds me I am standing here with empty pockets, meeting class

Bread crumbs on the floor
mice eating in class

Green eyes full of meteors, are playing games with me – deceiving
You dwelling; at the bottom, love monger class

Wisdom shaped like diamonds, gratefully wrapped in lotus leaves
Cannot borrow from the father so I’m tied to cheating a stolen class

And in comes Amrita Das, a delightful blessing —
subbing for Diederik and enriching our class.

Group 2
Rhyme: -ing
Refrain: class
Takallhus: Kat
Class Ghazal

The scholar looks down, they’re greeting in class
Multiverses full of magic, wizards teaching their class

So much anger, violence and guilt
I witnessed a beating after class

Christmas is coming
Everyday spent jesting in class

His palms clasped facing the sky
Thoughts dancing, a blessing to the class

And the threads began to unravel
He sat there, knitting with a solemn face, in class

For our future we compete
but barely succeed in class

Different threads from around the world
Ancient enemies all meeting in class

Strong and stable leadership in the national interest
We are the ruling idiots, the fleeting upper class

Swift, like a Kat, running, chasing –
then soundlessly stopping, competing in class


P.S.: I have a feeling I learnt a lot more than they did.


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