"Genome Tome" (2005)

An essay titled "Genome Tome" in American Scholar (Summer 2005) by Priscilla Long won the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing. Until 2013 Long wrote a weekly column for the magazine. 

If you construct a ghazal on a subject, so that each couplet chews on the theme announced in the title like a meat chopper, or if you violate the form by using slant rhyme—say, white/what instead of white/fight —or if you violate the rule of no enjambment between couplets, the form disintegrates. The eerie magic of the ghazal, its ravishing disunity, its weird indirection, falls to pieces. The thing becomes awkward, stiff, forced like a too-fancy, out-of-date party dress purchased at a thrift shop, which, besides missing a button, is too tight and unsightly.
I have committed God-awful ghazals. At first, I missed the point about autonomy of the couplets. Then one day I was visited by the muse, Keeper of Classical Forms. Perhaps she was sent by Agha Shahid Ali, who died of a brain tumor on December 8, 2001. He was 52 years old. 
I gutted my ghazals and began again.

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