WD Poetic Form Challenge: Ottava Rima

Time for another WD Poetic Form Challenge–this time for the ottava rima!

Find the rules for writing ottava rima here. Popular with English poets, this Italian 10-liner looks a lot like a French form.

So start writing them and sharing here on the blog (this specific post) for a chance to be published in Writer’s Digest magazine–as part of the Poetic Asides column. (Note: You have to log in to the site to post comments/poems; creating an account is free.)

Here’s how the challenge works:

  • Challenge is free. No entry fee.
  • The winner (and sometimes a runner-up or two) will be featured in a future edition of Writer’s Digest magazine as part of the Poetic Asides column.
  • Deadline 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time) on December 31, 2017.
  • Poets can enter as many ottava rima as they wish. The more “work” you make for me the better, but remember: I’m judging on quality, not quantity.
  • All poems should be previously unpublished. If you have a specific question about your specific situation, just send me an e-mail at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com. Or just write a new ottava rima. They’re fun to write; I promise.
  • I will only consider poems shared in the comments below. It gets too confusing for me to check other posts, go to other blogs, etc.
  • Speaking of posting, if this is your first time, your comment may not appear immediately. However, it should appear within a day (or 3–if shared on the weekend). So just hang tight, and it should appear eventually. If not, send me an e-mail at the address above.
  • Please include your name as you would like it to appear in print. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to use your user/screen name, which might be something like HaikuPrincess007 or MrLineBreaker. WD has a healthy circulation, so make it easy for me to get your byline correct.
  • Finally–and most importantly–be sure to have fun!


Order the new Poet’s Market!

The new 2018 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer, includes hundreds of poetry markets, including listings for poetry publications, publishers, contests, and more! With names, contact information, and submission tips, poets can find the right markets for their poetry and achieve more publication success than ever before.

In addition to the listings, there are articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry–so that poets can learn the ins and outs of writing poetry and seeking publication. Plus, it includes a one-year subscription to the poetry-related information on WritersMarket.com. All in all, it’s the best resource for poets looking to secure publication.

Click to continue.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which means he maintains this blog, edits a couple Market Books (Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market), writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, leads online education, speaks around the country on publishing and poetry, and a lot of other fun writing-related stuff. He’s also the author of the poetry collection Solving the World’s Problems.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


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152 thoughts on “WD Poetic Form Challenge: Ottava Rima

  1. JohnCDwyer

    A little late but thought I’d share my response to the challenge nonetheless, titled “Christmas in Ethiopia.”

    Around the corner Gena lurks and on
    The sidewalks are scattered feathers as when
    A bird escapes in a childhood cartoon
    By leaving a pile of plumage and wind.
    In Addis they have thirteen months of sun
    And no snow on Christmas, but still is seen
    The Christ in a manger, a reminder
    Of what lies in wait around the corner.

    I’m going to try to challenge myself to one poem a week this year and drop in for WD’s challenges. If you’re interested, follow along on my blog, Seed Wire.

  2. BDP

    “Sandlot Baseball Storm”

    Game close, the twister snuck right up, cared less
    about us neighbor kids who knew dumb fate
    from that day on, a sense of randomness
    where breeze quick-morphed and lathed the mound to waste,
    kept hunting for more prizes, furious,
    and whipped into a fiend with razor legs
    toward us, a foot-race toward the ditch, our slides
    so perfect we whooped, “Safe!” We could have died.

    Barb Peters

  3. BDP

    “How to Catch a Mallard”

    I watch them from my house: our stream’s their street.
    They coast, each day for them a Sunday drive.
    At times they pull up for a picnic treat
    on nearby lawn: the ducklings, trusting, glide
    to mom, each waddling onto grass, pipsqueaks
    in love with sunflower seeds de-hulled and dried.
    Who sows the food? A pigtailed neighbor girl.
    She plops down where the wee ones peck and swirl.

    Barb Peters

  4. Jane Shlensky

    Having computer problems. Hope you don’t mind if I dump three here.

    A Gathering of Women

    Whenever women gather one by two
    to help their neighbors bound in pain and need,
    what wondrous untold good these women do,
    thought joined with kindly thought and deed with deed.
    They give attention where it’s overdue;
    with care and busy hands, they sow love’s seed.
    Then someone helped becomes a helper too,
    wherever women gather two by two.

    In Flanders Field

    Along the cemetery, poppies grow,
    their petals purple, orange, pink and red.
    Now in full frilly bloom, they make a show
    with yellow eye, black lash, and nodding head.
    I speak to them imagining they know
    how beautiful they are among the dead
    like flowering souls of youth long lost, new born
    in Flanders Field. Remembering, we mourn.


    I watch the dusky edges of the night
    separate and curl away from day
    like long-forgotten pictures, out of sight
    in some shoe box or album, put away.
    How quietly first animals of light
    come foraging, how watchfully they stay
    nearby the woods, tensely attuned to fear.
    I wonder if they know a friend is near.

  5. Jane Shlensky

    Country Music

    His truck broke down three miles outside of town.
    Two miles to go, he walks in driving rain,
    his ears filled with a symphony of sound,
    his footsteps beating out a sad refrain.
    He’s going nowhere, but his joy is found
    within a tune that forms inside his brain.
    Sometimes words rise from weakness, true and strong.
    Sometimes a happenstance becomes a song.

  6. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    Discovering Three Pratchetts Not Yet Read

    I’m sitting up in bed last thing at night
    reading Terry Pratchett – one of my grand-
    daughter’s books, which I seized on with delight
    when I discovered it so near at hand.
    I’m visiting for Christmas. It’s all right
    that I’m in her space; she’s a good girl, and
    is young enough to like the blow-up bed
    she gets to use in the front room instead.

    Or else she sleeps on a trundle mattress
    in the study, but anyway I get
    her room and her bed and – what happiness –
    three books of hers by dear Terry Pratchett:
    Sir Terry, whose name I shall always bless
    for Discworld and its inhabitants – yet
    this is tinged with some grief. Though they live on,
    their gently humorous author has gone.

    They are ‘young adult’ books, a genre I
    often choose for its own sake anyway.
    I may be regressed, but I don’t know why
    I need worry about that. Reading’s play
    in my book (ha ha ha!) and I’m not shy
    of admitting this. Could there be a day
    without a book in it? No, not for me –
    glad I’m still here, in bed with Terry P.

  7. Jane Shlensky

    A Winter’s Tale

    I sing of early frost and falling leaves,
    of winter’s snap, flocks of migrating birds,
    wedges of geese aloft, long jacket sleeves,
    the cloudy breath of cattle, hungry herds
    nipping at hay, house sparrows in the eaves.
    I listen soundless, small, bereft of words.
    Wind carries snow that settles with a hiss,
    and I’m assured that peace must feel like this.

  8. Jane Shlensky

    Down Under

    Whenever permafrost begins to thaw,
    the frozen ground transforms to swamp, and sinks,
    with polar bears and towns sunk in its maw,
    and ice caps melting faster than time blinks.
    Still politicians refute what they saw—
    “the global warming hoax,” our leader thinks.
    So careless carbon footprints rage and range,
    because we do not have the will to change.

  9. Jane Shlensky


    How he admires the way she handles fruit,
    so gently bathes and dries it to a shine.
    Then takes a bite, and he is stricken mute;
    as juice runs down her chin, she drinks its wine.
    Involuntarily, he plots pursuit
    and ponders odds his quest could turn out fine.
    Dear God, whoever thought the world could come
    apart around a luscious purple plum.

  10. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    The Roses I Post on Facebook

    My hobby is to photograph roses.
    I like to find them growing in gardens.
    The good God, whom we are told disposes
    all things, knows how a heart sometimes hardens,
    therefore is using me (one supposes)
    to remind others of love and pardons.
    Each comes with a message, unique each day –
    yet all the same really. ‘Be Love,’ they say.

    When I visit my family down south
    in the temperate climes, I thrill to see
    gardens full of roses. They spill and froth
    and crowd and dance, and almost sing for me.
    (Or is it that songs burst from my own mouth
    in my joy that so much beauty can be?)
    At home I photograph roses for sale
    in hot-housed bunches … but still beautiful.

    The words I add to these posts are simple
    wishes for peace, for love, for happiness,
    for a bright day – nothing original.
    Yet people cherish them, feel that they bless.
    I do go into my heart for them all –
    risking banality, seeking sweetness.
    Whether they come from within or above,
    each message is really the same one: ‘Love!’

  11. Maria Grace

    The Holy Innocents
    (December 28th)

    Oh Little Ones, whom the World deems,
    But dedritus, to be thrown away,
    Lest you upset the selfish dreams
    Of modern Herods, bent on play:
    They are desolate. For all their schemes
    they die alone– Yet on this day,
    The Little Martyrs of the Infant King,
    Stand before His throne– and sing

  12. Tati-Williams

    Innocent ignorance

    A bunny awoke for the day
    Not sure what to make of it
    It didn’t want to laugh or play
    Not to sing or pivot
    It heard the earth crying and went to say
    “Why do you seem sicker, bit by bit?”
    The earth smiles slowly through the pain we have dealt
    And says, “Pray you never know the darkness I’ve felt.”

  13. Tati-Williams

    What is Love?

    This thing that tears and heals the soul
    This thing that makes you cry and smile
    It makes you feel as black as coal
    Yet you’re flying all the while
    And what is it that this thing stole
    Your heart, your peace, your wit and wile
    I’ve no need for something so complex or blistery
    I merely wonder if love is the worlds largest mystery

  14. Tati-Williams

    Skeleton Flower

    The sun is up so all seems well
    Until the rain comes down
    A pure bud has a story to tell
    So why do you now frown?
    The mirage is gone, it has now fell
    Do you prefer a false lake to drown?
    This flower is the same as that liars face
    When truth comes it leaves, disappears without a trace

  15. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    There’s Nothing Now

    There’s nothing now that I can do for you,
    and how it hurts my heart that this is so.

    My sky has darkened from its sunny blue
    as I discern that yours is thick with snow.

    I always held to what I knew was true –
    only to wonder now if I did know.

    We were each other’s shelters once; that’s gone.
    Like swords: the cutting rain, the piercing sun.

    (Combined ottava rima / ghazal.)

  16. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    That Sentimental Place, the Past

    She dreams of roses. Her father grew them
    when she was a child, in all the colours
    roses came in then. She remembers him
    tending them closely. He would be outdoors
    morning and evening, flexing his green thumb
    (he hoped) outside his daily working hours,
    and longer on weekends. The hues and scents
    he revelled in, she treasures … and laments.

  17. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    On Going Within

    I speak into a void. He, Hermit, goes
    so far into his cave, no-one can see
    his lone attempts to heal his current woes.
    I don’t know if he’s even hearing me;
    he’s possibly so deep he never knows
    that messages are sent at all. Will he
    restore himself by hiding as in womb –
    or does he pull around himself a tomb?


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