Presence/Absence in “Ghazals in Fugue”

I ~googled~ the ghazal form briefly, and learned that, specifically, within the genre of lyric love poems, this form is designed to think through the beauty of love even in the face of, or despite, loss. This insight sharpened my reading of the poem and helped draw out the abstract theme of presence and absence that runs throughout. I’ll describe the theme and provide some examples. Salahi’s “Ghazals in Fugue” presents and meditates on a series of absences, each with a particular valance. None of these absences, however, are total or void. They are absences-at-hand; they represent lack in the present, lack of access, and contingent separation. Yet each of these contingent conditions carries an existential quality as well. That is to say that although conceivable processes exist for the remediation of her losses, none readily present themselves. Although the pain of her loss is not necessarily that of fundamental severance or ripping away, the forms of absence she describes are neither episodic nor interloping.


In the spatiality/structure of the poem, the sources of absence are found repeated at the ends of lines. The repeated phrases are, that which is, “too dark to read,” the (not) war, falling quiet/all being quiet, things that are like home or not home enough, and (perhaps) “you.” With the exception of the final item, each of these represents not a void, but a sort of barrier to perception or immediacy. Her forms of loss prompt imagination of remediation – the text can be illuminated, the war resolved into peace, the quiet interrupted by noise, et cetera. What is the significance of this sort of seemingly temporary form of loss? Perhaps it the ghazal form rewrites these ostensibly temporary circumstances to give them a form of permanence, a depth, an enduring (read: legitimate) quality. I don’t have a definitive reading of this observation, except to say that the quality of the absences she writes is in part re-valenced by the form itself.

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