31 Anticipating a Discussion on the Ghazal – Presentation Assignment

Authors: Anastacia-Reneé, DaMaris B. Hill, Mary Beth Cancienne, McKinley E. Melton

Target Group: Undergraduate

Assignment – Emphasis on the Ghazal (For a Literature Course)

Anticipating a lesson on ghazals

Encouraging students to develop familiarity with poetic forms can be challenging, particularly with a form as layered as the ghazal. The ghazal, “originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love,” consists of “syntactically and grammatically complete couplets” with “an intricate rhyme scheme” wherein “each couplet ends on the same word or phrase (the radif), and is preceded by the couplet’s rhyming word (the qafia, which appears twice in the first couplet)” and also incorporates the rule that “the last couplet includes a proper name, often of the poet’s” (from The Poetry Foundation). In order to help students understand the significance of the ghazal and develop a greater level of comfort and confidence in discussing it, both as a tradition and a popular form in contemporary poetry, educators might consider incorporating this presentation assignment.

The primary learning objectives:

  • Identify and articulate formal elements of a poem, with an emphasis on the ghazal.
  • Strengthen students’ familiarity with key terms and elements of craft.
  • Strengthen students’ skills in public speaking and communication of ideas and concepts.

Assignment: Develop a 8-10 minute presentation for class. Research the word that’s repeated in one of the assigned ghazals and provide context for the class discussion. 

Presentation should consider (for the word/phrase):

  • Socio-cultural context
  • Spiritual/religious context
  • Ancient and present contexts
  • Repetition and rhythm

Read the Poetry Foundation entry on the ghazal.

Example for a student to “model” – Evie Shockley’s “where you are planted”

Guiding Questions:

  • What does “southern trees” bring to mind for you?
  • What sociohistorical or sociopolitical contexts does the phrase “southern trees” bring with it to the poem?
  • What effect does the repetition of the phrase have on you as a reader?
  • Do your ideas change as you encounter the phrase throughout the poem? How? Why?

Supplemental Readings


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The Furious Flower Syllabus Project: Opening the World of Black Poetry Copyright © 2024 by Anastacia-Reneé; allia abdullah-matta; Ariana Benson; Mary Beth Cancienne; Teri Ellen Cross Davis; Shameka Cunningham; Hayes Davis; Tyree Daye; Angel C. Dye; Brian Hannon; T.J. Hendrix; DaMaris B. Hill; Meta DuEwa Jones; Shauna M. Morgan; Adrienne Danyelle Oliver; Leona Sevick; James Smethurst; Dana A. Williams; L. Lamar Wilson; Carmin Wong; Dave Wooley; and Joanne V. Gabbin (preface) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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