Ottava Rima: Poetic Form

For the first poetic form of 2017, let’s take a look at ottava rima.

Ottava Rima Poems

With an Italian origin, the earliest known ottava rima were written by Giovanni Boccaccio. In English, Lord Byron used the form to write Don Juan. More contemporary English poets to use the form include William Butler Yeats and Kenneth Koch.

Ottava rima are 8 lines with an abababcc rhyme scheme, most commonly written in iambic pentameter (or 10-syllable lines). The form can work as a stand alone poem, or be used as connecting stanzas.


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Here’s my comic books inspired attempt at an Ottava Rima:

Baton Passing, by Robert Lee Brewer

Once upon a time, or so it is said,
there was a comic hero named The Flash,
and on every cover he appeared dead
or on the cusp of dying as a rash
of crimes broke loose with no one in his stead
until they finally unveiled Kid Flash
who appealed to younger generations
with his bright colors and observations.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


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9 thoughts on “Ottava Rima: Poetic Form

  1. Anthony94

    Questions for a Winter Goldfinch

    Where does the yellow go from your bright wings
    that now are brown as grasses far below?
    Your tumbling flight down windy skeins of spring
    now spurts of feathered speed so that the snow
    sifting upon your back will cease to cling
    as back and forth to feeders now you go
    engaged in winter’s dancing pirouette.
    Are your dreams too of spring, that sweet coquette?

  2. taylor graham


    Toward bedtime, after rain I walk wet field-
    grass – a dark ocean tiding under moon,
    its light hazy over hummocks that yield
    underfoot. Washed-down sticks and bones festoon
    the fenceline. Rain is fate and blessing, sealed
    in script to be decoded late or soon.
    Under borrowed light from a dark heaven
    I step carefully on what I’m given.

  3. Amy Baskin

    lace up your shoes already

    tendons shrunken, muscles bound, soft tissue pain
    bones creaking, breaking, shattering in shards now
    fifty reasons for not running in the rain
    regimens fixed and promised, a solemn vow
    days without discipline welt like water stains
    candy coated flour dredged cortex allows
    all sorts of ideas that shouldn’t be thought
    chase them away before they stick and get caught

    —Amy Baskin
    (published in Postcard Poems & Prose Magazine, August 2016)

  4. Marie Elena

    The Drummer’s Daughter

    Poetic scaffolding that she holds dear:
    The rhythmic pulse that begs her language sing,
    A rhyme scheme that is pleasing to her ear,
    That spang-a-lang that adds desired swing,
    Old-fashioned verse with vibes of yesteryear,
    And beat from which her nodding muse can spring.
    Though flowing prose may be the current trend,
    Iambic pentameter is her friend.

    Marie Elena Good


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