THE TERCET GHAZAL FORMAT

Gene Doty

The tercet ghazal" is a form that was developed by the poet Robert Bly for his collection The Night Abraham Called to the Stars (HarperCollins, 2001).

Bly replaces the two-hemistich shers of the Persian/Urdu ghazal with a tercet stanza. Each stanza is autonomous and in many of the poems, ends with the same word, the radif. Though this departs from the formal structure of the Persian ghazal, it is faithful to the idea that each sher is a poem in its own right strung together and unified with the others through a common rhyme (qafiya) and radif.

Normally, a tercet ghazal should have four to eight tercet stanzas using the formal guidelines outlined below:

  • Each stanza should end with the same word - a radif. If you wish, you may choose to use this word at the end of the first line of the first stanza in the matla tradition.
  • Each stanza should be autonomous. In other words, it should end upon a full stop. By contrast, the lines within each stanza should usually flow into one other. In other words, they should generally be enjambed.

I am not suggesting that they are necessary for all tercet ghazals. In fact, Robert Bly varies his observance of the radif and other formal elements in his own tercet ghazals. 

Robert Bly's ghazal Dawn" is an illustrative example of this form. Bly uses the word dawn as the radif, which he also introduces at the end of the first line of the first stanza, in the tradition of the matla. 

EXPLORE EXAMPLES OF TERCET GHAZALS