Poetry Sunday: ‘Ghazanelle,’ by Moira Egan



Last night I wakened, shaking, wanting sex.
I didn’t know quite where I was, nor why

I wasn’t in my bed. He woke, perplexed
at my confusion, lulled me calm with sex.

He wants to know why women sometimes cry
at moments of wild joy, petite mort, why

a wave of loneliness we can’t express,
that moat of mourning, hits us after sex.

I wonder if it’s chromosomal: y
departed from primordial x, and why

or how he knows to hold me all night, pressed
into him like intaglio, post-sex.

Now, sleep. Some other night I’ll tell him why
I don’t cry with him. Arms around me. Sex.


“Ghazanelle” first appeared in The Book of Forms (UPNE 3rd. ed. 2000), ed. Lewis Turco, and in The Silk of the Tie/La Seta della Cravatta, a bilingual collection published by Edizioni l’Obliquo, Brescia, Italy, 2009.


HFS correct cut


Photo: Eric Toccaceli

Moira Egan has published six books of poetry, most recently Botanica Arcana/Strange Botany (Italic Pequod, Ancona, 2014) and Hot Flash Sonnets (Passager Books, 2014), which can be ordered here. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies in the U.S., Italy, England, Malta, and Mexico. With her husband, Damiano Abeni, she has translated into Italian volumes by Ashbery, Barth, Bender, Hecht, Heti, Simic, Strand, and others. She lives in Rome, where she teaches creative writing, translates works of poetry and prose, and continues to invent strict and strange poetic forms.



Poet’s Note

One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing this poem was inventing the fanciful history of the form that I had created, which ended up, along with the poem, tongue in cheek, in Lewis Turco’s The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics, Including Odd and Invented Forms:

.  .  .  the ghazanelle was a joint invention of two seventeenth-century individuals whose names have been lost to history. One was a Persian silk merchant who specialized in writing ghazals; the other was a Provençale courtesan whose role at the court was writing and reciting postprandial erotic villanelles. The two met when the merchant stopped to do business at her patron’s castle; they fell in love, but had to keep their relationship a secret so as not to incur the ire of the courtesan’s patron. They communicated secretly for seven years, sending ghazanelles back and forth between Aix and Tehran.

I still like to imagine those two fictional lovers risking their lives to exchange their poems. Yet this little piece was simply born of a particularly fertile period in which I was fooling around with poetic form. Thinking of Kim Addonizio’s invention of the sonnenizio, next-generation riffing on Billy Collins’s fun with the paradelle, what could I do but invent a maniacally strict form with a slightly unbelievable history? Hence, my ghazanelle.


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  • marianne sippel September 1, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    I have never felt this way or what I perceive as what was being expressed, but I still understand it. Thus poetry. It takes me to a place of being a woman and in relationship. and still I understand what is being said yet not ever waking up in the night requiring sex. But that is just me. I think it is something remote yet universal.

  • Sharon Esther Lampert August 30, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Dear Moira Egan,

    Congratulations on your new poetry publication.

    The title and book cover are exquisite.

    Thank you for sharing the poem, Ghazanelle.

    I remember those premenopausal hot flashes so well
    that disturb a goodnight’s sleep.

    How fortunate to have a lover by your side to rock you back to sleep.

    Look forward to reading more of your poetry.

    Prodigy Sharon Esther Lampert
    poet, philosopher, peacemaker, Prophet and Prodigy

  • Joanna migdal August 28, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Fun to read, but must have been very challenging to create. Am ver impressed !