Ghazal is an Arabic word that means ‘talking to women’/ We have been exposed to Indian Ghazals already. But ‘Jalsaghar’ has contemporary Ghazals to offer to the readers. A traditional ghazal has five to fifteen couplets, basically seven and is characterized by a repeating word/ phrase which can be seen at the end of one or both lines. ‘Jalsaghar’ is no different. Each Ghazal is composed of several couplets and in some of them the repetition of the word/ phrase (called a refrain) is there. This not only makes it interesting but adds rhyme to the otherwise reading.
Just like a bead in a necklace, each couplet is a poem in itself. The Anthology consists of 77 poems by Steffen Horstmann and a foreword by Gene Doty. The poet has mostly adhered to the conventional form (using a rhyme and refrain) and used couplets. Acting as a bonus is the foreword by Gene Doty, who has not only given a brief introduction to the concept of contemporary Ghazals but also emphasized on how is has been beautifully integrated with English language. This makes the book understandable for novices as well as the Ghazal lovers. The book is a slender volume for a life’s work and there is something soothing about all the poems. There is great variation as the poet has divided the poems under four sections: In your Country, The Manikarnika Ghat, The Diva of Jalsaghar and Whom we call Ishmael.
The poems are simple yet they have been written in a language that carries the readers through an experience that threatens to overwhelm. The lines not only manage difficulty but also project something new out of it.
Some of the couplets that linger in your mind even after you close the book go like:
It sleeps like a grain in a husk or sometimes
Rages like the sea- my death inside me.
From within the cages of tumbleweeds
Silver crickets chirr on the stony mesas.
Why read these poems? Because they will touch your soul and change your perception. This will be a new form of poetry for most of the readers and giving it a shot will be worthwhile.
Had the font been bigger, the pleasure of reading would have been more.