Definition

One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Personal Challenge ~ Kerry O'Connor

Ghazal of Lost Hope

Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man. 
Victor Hugo

Pandora ~ John William Waterhouse
Wikipaintings.org


Why is that last word written on your brow?
Grit your teeth, grin and strip hope from your brow.

Of this Pandorian treasure, I say:
Tighten lid, lest elpis sit on your brow.

Attempt not to count blossom on the trees;
Late frost claims early flowers from your brow.

Drought broke with floodwater breaching the gates.
Rain drowned hope, scoured the lines from your brow.

A saint and a sinner confer all night;
Both agree: life left its mark on each brow.

Expect betrayal. Trust lies broken too.
Those are your tears, your sweat on troubled brow.

He battled the night – fought terrors within –
Understood, when he tore hope from his brow.

We raised our prayers for peace, all beseeching.
The reply: I wrote no word on your brow.

Stop the leakage of this eternal spring;
Kerry, it’s false hope you wear upon your brow.

© Kerry O’Connor

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Hedgewitch contacted me last week to ask if I would take on her personal challenge of form poetry, I was trepidatious, to say the least. Not because I don't write to form, but because I hold Hedgewitch as one of the finest poets of form, and I wondered if I could live up to her expectations.  She gave me the option of three forms: the pantoum, terza rima or ghazal.  I chose ghazal because it is a form I have yet to perfect.

As I understand the form of Ghazal, it consists of several stand-alone couplets, which are united by the repeated words at the end of line two and by a thematic tie. Traditionally, the subject matter of Ghazals tends towards melancholy and metaphysical questions, as well as love and longing. I have chosen to work with the former. Please read a more accurate description HERE.

Recently, I came across the Victor Hugo quote, and thought it was very affirming of the human spirit, but it nagged at me until I asked myself this question: “What if hope is the curse of humanity, rather than our greatest asset? Without it, wouldn’t we be more likely to face up to the reality of the present, rather than relying on our imaginations to supply a projected better time to come?"  Many of my readers may disagree with every word I’ve said, but my approach to poetry demands that I be true to my own philosophy - whatever it may be at the time.  Further inspiration of what a Ghazal should be was supplied by this amazing poem by Aghad Shahid Ali, called Even the Rain.

In mitigation of my pessimistic theme, I leave you with a song by the British band, Mumford & Sons.  It is called The Cave, and I was listening to it while doing my last check on the poem. The irony of the chorus had to make me smile:

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck
And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as its called again...


20 comments:

Susan said...

Wow, and again Wow: Your entire response to this challenge--poem, links, song, painting, log of process--gave me a new knock-out-in-the-ring experience. You introduce the question "What if the existence of hope stopped progress and reform?" It's an important question. Answered in a poem it gave me a series of daggers, the most gentle of which is "A saint and a sinner confer all night;
Both agree: life left its mark on each brow." My brow has--Not the mark of Cain--but HOPE! But your narrator insists: Keep hope in the box; the frost will kill; drought, therefore flood; expect betrayal!! I am overwhelmed! and the narrator knows that Kerry is too! In short, this poem is brilliant! It cuts through all the self-satisfied knowledge of witness and hope, making me think and feel. Again, wow, And the form, with the repeated image "on your brow" brings it all home. My goodness. Thank you.

hedgewitch said...

Kerry, you have chosen to truly challenge yourself here, and as often happens when we square off and face something which calls for us not to do the easy thing, but to extend and to push ourselves, the result is an affirmation of all we have and are. For me this is a difficult form, coming from its Sufi roots, a kind of mysticism we have lost touch with in our culture--you waste no words in confronting that place here, and play that quintessential role of the mystic, the Seeker.

I'm struck by your Hugo quote--one of the quotes I've lived with for decades goes, roughly: "But the people yet hoped, for Hope in the heart of man lives on lean pasture." (It's from a medieval rendering of Tristan and Isolde) I do often think hope falls in that category which Indian religions refers to as maya--an illusion of the life we lead that is made necessary by our desires. You certainly argue for that case with detail and clarity, even if perhaps living without hope is a bleak concept to wrap one's head around.

Thanks for your kind words about my own forays into form, but you far exceed any expectations with this--your end words fall perfectly and rhythmically, your stanzas are all faultlessly standalone, and you even work your name into the final lines, finally aiming your own advice at yourself. Very fine work, Kerry; you didn't just meet the challenge, you blew it out of the water.

aprille said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unseen Rajasthan said...

A Beautiful and well phrased writing !! I really appreciate and like it !!Great work !!

Unseen India

Mimi Foxmorton said...

This is so incredibly beautiful.........

:)

Mama Zen said...

Beautiful job with this, Kerry. I find ghazals impossible to write.

izzy said...

Try again- although I cannot paste the link! Thanks for a lovely challenge- I was fascinated and thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Susie Clevenger said...

A beautiful piece Kerry...you not only wrote in the challenged form but challenged the reader to imagine existence without hope.

Kerry O'Connor said...

How wonderful to read these positive and productive comments. I was very uncertain about the theme I chose, and have spent time considering the question of hope from another angle. Perhaps if homo sapiens had not developed the imagination which allowed the possibility of hope, we would never have emerged from the cave in the first place. Whatever the case, we cannot remove it from our psyches as easily as this poem may suggest.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

This is absolutely brilliant, Kerry. You aced the form and the language is awesome. Your last four lines are especially wonderful! Way to rise to the challenge! But then you always do. And then knock it out of the park.

Ella said...

You have rose to the challenge! I see beauty and the thorns merged into a balanced view of life! Kerry what a journey you have shared~ I find your insight powerful...I dance within the borders of both views~
I so appreciate you being you and sharing this! Hedge you really pushed Kerry to express herself in such a wonderful way~ I'm in awe!
I love these lines:

"Attempt not to count blossom on the trees;
Late frost claims early flowers from your brow.

Drought broke with floodwater breaching the gates.
Rain drowned hope, scoured the lines from your brow."

I love your use of nature to express the view like a science equation. Wonderful!

Hedge, I'm off to go look at your prior challenge! I heard it was also amazing!

YOU both inspire me to push myself...I love your noetic voices!

Peggy said...

Wow another new form which I have never heard of--let alone perfected! I will give this a try and see if I can come up with something. I don't see a Mr. Linky anywhere though.

Kay L. Davies said...

The ultimate Real Toads challenge (dare I say duel?) has got to be Kerry and Hedgewitch. The two of you are real students of poetry. I am a fraud, having chosen to spend my working life making more money as a printer than I could as a writer. And now I dabble in doggerel.
Kerry responding to Hedge's challenge is a meeting of the minds, the masterminds. "She gave me the option of three forms: the pantoum, terza rima or ghazal. I chose ghazal because it is a form I have yet to perfect." Oh, yes, easy for you to say, Kerry, and then you went ahead and aced it.
I consider my humble self fortunate to breathe cyber-air with poets such as the two of you.
Thanks for the experience, ladies. I love it.
K

Marian said...

i just wrote a really long comment and blogger ate it.
it had to do with how difficult i find this particular form, and how i am in awe of you having made it your own.
and with the great debate you raise, a weight i carry around with me: will my optimism lead to my defeat? am i just stupid for having hope? oh sigh.
thank you, kerry.

Grace said...

What a challenge Kerry and you rose to it beautifully~ I have written in this form before and I can appreciate how carefully you chose the words and made it meaningful ~

I specially like the way you used brow from different perspective:A saint and a sinner confer all night;
Both agree: life left its mark on each brow.

It is difficult to have hope or even remain hopeful but without it, where else would we be ~

Fireblossom said...

Susan, try breathing into a paper bag for a few minutes. Or something.

Kerry, you did a fine job on what I would have found an extremely daunting challenge from our best form poet. I'm impressed.

Mary said...

Really a beautiful poem, Kerry!

Margaret said...

To turn something upside down, something that most people don't question is brilliant. My favorite line?


A saint and a sinner confer all night;
Both agree: life left its mark on each brow.


False hope... perhaps, but I hope not ;)

Your are officially crowned "Poetry Form Goddess" :)

Herotomost said...

I don't know how you do this. These difficult forms are so painstakingly brutal sometimes, but you manage to turn them into such works of art. And what frustrated feeling that came across in this one, despair, damn. SA, you nailed it in my estimation...thats not worth much really in this case, but hell, it rocked. And I love that song.

Hannah said...

Love the serendipity of the song chorus and the way it speaks to your piece, Kerry...so neat!!

I also enjoy the forthrightness in laying out your opinion or I'll reiterate this sentiment that really makes my heart happy..." my approach to poetry demands that I be true to my own philosophy - whatever it may be at the time."

I just love that, Kerry.

You handled the form VERY well...I enjoyed your topic and dialogue, too, Kerry.

Excellent!

I hope you get this...sorry so late.