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  • All poems should be previously unpublished.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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49 thoughts on “WD Poetic Form Challenge: Ottava Rima

  1. PressOn


    I make my way along the cobbled wall
    beneath a lens now shuttered, sightless, still;
    the shaft itself is still erect and tall,
    as though it still could banish fog and chill
    despite a beacon sheathed beneath a pall.
    The stillness breaks, destroyed by gulls’ ill will.
    Below, the restless sea still grinds away:
    this all will be a rock riprap one day.

    — William Preston

  2. taylor graham


    A girl who knows this great big country knows
    the roads and trails that close up first with freeze;
    the way an east wind down the canyon blows
    and how an early snow bends down the trees;
    the place where glitter-fields with cold sun glows
    and frost begins to fret the valley lees.
    That girl will bundle warm to trudge outside
    and walk the land that waits its thawing tide.

  3. Connie Peters

    When Winter Rules

    The bitter cold has gripped the land in ice.
    All’s frozen in its place and nothing moves.
    The winter’s tightened grip exacts a price.
    The road is marked with stubborn frozen grooves.
    The food stored in the cupboard must suffice,
    As we inside will wait till temp improves.
    So we’ve become subject to winter’s law
    And dream of warmer days when comes spring’s thaw.

  4. Maria Grace

    At Year’s End

    This bright new year went down in flame:
    A battle of broken, beating hearts,
    Striving the rampant world to tame,
    To hold, when the center falls apart,
    To Charity– and all in vain.
    Or so it seems: for to have fought
    For holy and heroic things–
    Despite defeat– is victory.

  5. Tracy Davidson


    He sits and moans that I don’t understand
    his needs, I make no effort to appease.
    Says it’s my fault he has to raise his hand,
    strike blows that stun and knock me to my knees.
    A ‘proper’ wife wouldn’t need her hide tanned
    as often, she wouldn’t cry, wouldn’t tease.
    “What of ‘proper’ husbands?” I long to yell…
    but silently withdraw back in my shell.

  6. candy

    Cloud Watching

    I turn my face up to the sky
    and look for comfort in the clouds
    oh, how I wish that I could fly
    above the anger and the crowds
    where I might find a place close-by
    a place where dreaming is allowed
    there I would rest my weary soul
    upon a placid, cloudy shoal

    Candace Kubinec

  7. Alice Stainer

    The Heat of Battle

    At the foot of the garden, beneath iron skies,
    On a snow-velvet plinth Sir Snowedalot stood:
    A knight of this snow-realm, he surveyed it with eyes
    Made of beady black buttons; a flat piece of wood,
    And a hubcap for shield helped him fight for a prize
    Much greater than gold, all on Earth that is good;
    Burnished helm, a brass pan with handles for ears;
    Grey glove for a gauntlet, unravelled with years.

    No knight was more proud or more fabled in story
    Than Sir Snowedalot, guardian of garden and gate.
    Every day Sam looked out at his pale frosted glory,
    Then crammed on his coat, as he scarcely could wait
    To engage with his champion, in battle so gory
    That blood stained the snow, and he heard the knight state
    “O I am Sir Snowedalot, fight if you must
    But know that my prowess will turn you to dust!”

    On Sunday the sunbeams warmed tingling air,
    The icicles dripped and the branches shook free.
    Sam hurried outside with the sun in his hair
    And his sword in his hand, as bright as could be.
    “O I am Sir Snowedalot, fight if you dare,
    But know that I’ll conquer – none mightier than me!”
    And that was the last that Sir Snowedalot would say:
    By the end of the day he’d clean melted away.

    Alice Stainer

  8. PressOn


    A piece of me is always turning there,
    to my old home, the place I was born;
    I’m drawn to something glowing in the air,
    the same way sunshine beckons growing corn.
    I feel it in each city, town, or square
    where strangers make me feel a bit forlorn:
    some similarity of street or face
    that takes me back to where I knew my place.

    I haven’t seen the house for many years
    and all the neighbors now have passed away;
    it seems to be a recipe for tears:
    the sentiments that limn a bygone day.
    But when you smile, you banish all arrears
    and fears, and hold the strangeness far at bay,
    and bid me learn, no matter where I roam,
    that folks are folks, and they will point me home.

    — William Preston

  9. PressOn


    Ker-plick, sker-unch, ker-plick, sker-unch, ker-plick,
    my boots tattoo those sounds along the ground;
    the snow is blowing on the double quick
    and sneezes meld with wheezes as I pound
    the pavement, slowly getting good and sick
    of constant cold comporting all around.
    To add to all those other winter blows,
    an icicle is forming on my nose.

    And yet, I would not trade this time of year
    for all the sand that fronts Miami Beach;
    it all tells me that Christmastime is here
    and carols and bright lights are within reach
    along with smiles that limn the atmosphere.
    No other time has so much joy to teach.
    And so I hear my boots proceed to crunch:
    sker-unch, ker-plick, sker-unch, ker-plick, sker-unch.

    — William Preston

  10. taylor graham


    The long whistle moves soft through cottonwoods
    waving their yellow hands goodbye. She stands
    hanging wash and ticking off all the should’s
    of Monday. Unmatched stockings in her hands
    as memories of those small, forgotten could’s
    that somehow never will: those far-off lands
    where parallels unite. Tomorrow, rain.
    For now, the fading whistle of a train.

  11. taylor graham


    We’ve made it through the spirit-haunted time
    when shades can pass between the worlds, they say.
    And now the frost has killed the garden, rime
    has slicked the steps, the sky is bedrock gray;
    and life begins its yearly earthward climb
    beneath the cellar where the root-stocks stay.
    Let’s walk the woods. They’re jubilating damp
    and bid us venture past the last lit lamp.

  12. taylor graham

    Mt. Murphy, 1847

    The sawmill workers watched the warming sun
    that climbed a hill across the river – high
    and heady. Holiday! Their climb begun;
    and from the top, the whole world seemed to lie
    beneath them, such a spectacle to stun
    the strongest man under a free blue sky,
    its song of praise not wholly understood
    but he’d remember, sun-crowned once for good.

  13. RJ Clarken


    “In general it can be said that a nation’s art is greatest when it most reflects the character of its people.” ~Edward Hopper

    Do they stay up to all hours, eating,
    drinking, talking? And do they feel alone
    as the scene unfolds, and keeps repeating?
    In wee hours, shadow hours, do they atone
    for sins they can’t recall? Is peace fleeting
    ‘til the time when they can cast that first stone?
    Are they us? Are we art? Do we reflect
    the canvas, real life and its intersect?


  14. Connie Peters


    Her lack of faith is now a tragedy.
    A branch has fallen from the living vine.
    God’s whispers to her heart so urgently.
    But she invents excuses to decline.
    She rock-and-rolls, does drugs so recklessly
    And sweeps her problems ‘neath the rug to hide—
    In the guise of escaping misery,
    reflecting coldness of her day and time.
    While God desires to add joy to her life,
    She dances with the devil and his strife.

  15. PressOn


    September brings initial gasps of red;
    October splashes yellows everywhere;
    November heralds underlying dread
    as all but oaks and pines begin to bare
    their limbs, and greys and browns persist instead.
    And yet, my thoughts are green as morning prayer
    for, as September segues to December,
    it’s colors and their scents that I’ll remember.

    — William Preston

  16. RJ Clarken


    “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” ~E. B. White

    What do I hope to accomplish today?
    Will it benefit me, or do I share?
    Why can’t it be both? As I watch each ray
    peek from behind the night burning off, where
    is my meaning? A sunburst display
    of philosophy from an old desk chair.
    So, shall I improve, or enjoy this pause?
    For now, I’ll watch the sunrise, just because…


  17. RJ Clarken


    “Don’t try to tell me that hungry is not an emotion, because I feel that clearly in my soul.” ~Bill Murray

    I gotta eat something: else I’ll go nuts!
    Nuts! Wait! Don’t we have some pistachios
    …or some bread? Sandwich? Maybe some cold cuts
    or cookies or candy. Hate to impose.
    I gotta eat something: no ifs, ands, buts!
    I’m getting cranky, ‘cause that’s how it goes.
    I gotta eat something: lift up my mood.
    Oliver was right. Food glorious food.


  18. RJ Clarken


    “Finer than any sand are dusts of gold that gleam. Vague starpoints, in the mystic iris of their eyes. ” ~Charles Baudelaire

    She was a mystic iris, dusts of gold
    and twilight-hued drapes of purple and blue.
    She was a vague starpoint, not growing old,
    because that was something she’d never do.
    Now, her spirit is like sand, uncontrolled,
    matching the tattoo an artist once drew.
    I wear it on my sleeve; a badge of grace;
    remembrance of someone I still embrace


  19. PressOn


    One evergreen immersed in driving snows
    and whipping winds that mark December days
    can scarce be said to block the cyclic blows
    of cold and unremitting browns and greys
    that mark the winter season’s ebbs and flows.
    And yet, this single tree demands my gaze:
    it stands, a sentinel that ever bends
    but never breaks, constant till winter ends.

    In storms its foliage is almost black
    but sunshine makes the needles fairly gleam
    as frost that set beneath the night’s attack
    proceeds to melt and form a twinkling stream;
    No wonder that I smile: it takes me back
    to warmer winds, when greenery would teem;
    this grace in green recalls the summer sun
    and seems to bless us all, every one.

  20. Nurit Israeli


    Don’t dwell upon the swiftly fleeting years.
    Don’t flee nor fear the dark, foreboding rooms.
    See, smiles may lie in wait behind the tears;
    hold tight to hope, see past the gloom and doom.
    Delight sometimes resides beside the fears,
    embrace the waves of cold before spring blooms.
    Though heartaches take their toll, I do confess,
    in spite of everything that’s wrong − say YES!

    ~ Nurit Israeli

  21. Connie Peters

    Sometimes Truth Hurts

    The truth may hurt like blunt-force injuries.
    Reality’s gloom may ache like a wound.
    A coin, when flipped, will show two sides with ease.
    God’s matchless grace with pain can be attuned.
    Escape you may want, but not what you need.
    Brief valley journeys won’t leave you marooned.
    A glass is half full when it’s being filled.
    Take care you don’t let truth’s value be spilled.

  22. Eileen S

    by Eileen Sateriale

    A clever girl had engineering skills
    and imagination as a school child
    One day it snowed and she had a big thrill.
    Sledding down her back-yard slope made her smile.
    She constructed a snow ramp on the hill
    ‘til warm sun melted the hardened snow piles.
    That day she gained mechanical knowledge
    and became an engineer in college.

  23. 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?

  24. PressOn


    You write of caves and darkened inner spaces;
    your words create an unexplored new world
    of mind-spun flowers and the wind-blown places
    of deep-felt dreams deployed but not unfurled.
    The scenes you draw admit of unknown graces
    that I must free from grain in which they’re burled.
    I thank you now, thank you for all of that
    and for the fears and joys your words begat.

    — William Preston

  25. PressOn


    Across the land the squalls proceed to blow,
    bringing to chaparral and matted sedge
    a swath of rinsing wind and cleansing snow.
    Winter no longer seems to pause and hedge
    its bets; this is the time for cold to flow
    from montane reservoirs to autumn’s edge.
    I watch as brown succumbs to white and blue
    and see no fault to flail, nor need to rue.

    And yet, pure quiet reigns, though winds are strong;
    the skies are casting gold across the ground
    as sundown comes and pulls the night along.
    No creatures venture out: I look around
    but all I sense is snowfall’s sweeping song;
    not even ravens deign to raise a sound.
    This scene seems fitting, now that I am old;
    I am a man acquainted with the cold.

    — William Preston

    1. Nurit Israeli

      Love the gentle, lyrical quality of this; particularly the beautiful way in which the last 2 lines reveal the speaker, recap, and give depth to the poem. Nods of recognition…

  26. Connie Peters

    Not Just Boulders

    I’ve always had a liking for huge rocks,
    With water curling ‘round each base like flames.
    As kids, we’d slosh about our daring walks,
    With scents of minnows as we played our games.
    The stage was set for deeds unorthodox,
    From mystic to new planets with odd names.
    More images march like a long parade,
    Remembering creative ways we played.