Gene Doty's 'Ghazal Page', a legacy which was carried forward since his death in 2015 by his son, Matt Warren, and editor Holly Jensen is now, sadly, having to close its doors. I offer this small tribute to his work and our friendship over the years and for his many contributions to the project of poetry, through his dedicated work as teacher, poet, editor and lover of poetry.
Gene introduced me to the Middle Eastern form of poetry, the Ghazal in 1998, a year before he founded the Ghazal Page. His project has continued ever since to inform and encourage a generation of American poets to explore the history of the Ghazal and related forms of poetry. That legacy will continue to contribute and ripple outward into the project of poetry for generations to come, even though the project by others to keep the Ghazal Page alive is coming to an end.
Though few residents of Rolla, Mo. may know the term 'Ghazal' or what Gene Doty, one of their own, actually did for the project of poetry, they can certainly take pride that he was one of their leading citizens. There were many places Gene Doty might have chosen to teach, live and raise his family, but he chose the community of Rolla and remained there for almost 50 years. There had to be a good reason for that. This is my small tribute, in Ghazal form, to a friend and mentor,
The Final Ghazal
(a tribute to Gene Doty)
Guzzle up, Gino, last call. Drink up the dregs of that one last sher.
Where the matlaa ends, as it always does, its shadow casts share.
When last we traveled this dark saloon where we left our sins
at the bottom of the glass, the radif repeats its steadfast shers.
Closing time, my friend, Last call! Last call!, the black-eyed gypsy
unveils her song, bahr stretch beyond the note of one long past sher.
There she dances the table tops, her whirling skirts lifted ever higher,
seduced are those who ought leave it alone, qaafiyaa blown in fast shers.
I walk the halls alone, my friend. Gone, gone! the lingering dare
to possess a takhallus, always yours, one that thou hast shared.
Always the thirsty desert that drinks from the well amid the waste,
where those who seek the sands of time come to find its one last sher.
Ever the poets red blood must flow down, down to that thirsty mere.
I drink to you, my friendas maqtaa redoubled slides into that vast sher.
Red Slider, 2019
note: for those unfamiliar with some of the terms used in this Ghazal, 'matlaa' is the first couplet, 'sher', of a Ghazal, which sets the ending term or phrase, the 'radif', used in all the shers that follow. The term before the radif is a rhyming word called the 'quaafiya' that will appear in every sher of the Ghazal just before the radif. The final sher is called the 'maqtaa' and often contains a reference to the poet's name, the 'takhallus', as a way of establishing their authorship (a12th century version of what will later become become the familiar copyrighting of a work.)