Skip to main content

Ovillejo: Poetic Form

Ovillejo poems have been written in Spanish since the early 17th century (and possibly even earlier). Learn the rules of this 10-line poetic form that employs rhymes and a refrain.

The story behind me selecting today's poetic form is maybe as complicated as the form itself, which is pretty complicated. Poetic Asides regular De Jackson credited me with sharing this form on the blog when she wrote a post on the ovillejo over at dVerse Poets Pub, though I'm not certain if I did or not.

Unfortunately, whole swaths of previous posts were permanently deleted from the site during one of our server moves a few years back. So maybe I shared the form, but it's also possible the form was shared in the comments of another post--or even in a thread on Facebook. Regardless, here we are now: getting ready for the ovillejo.

Ovillejo Poems

The ovillejo is an old Spanish form popularized by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616). This 10-line poem is comprised of 3 rhyming couplets (or 2-line stanzas) and a quatrain (or 4-line stanza).

The first line of each couplet is 8 syllables long and presents a question to which the second line responds in 3 to 4 syllables--either as an answer or an echo.

The quatrain is also referred to as a redondilla (which is usually a quatrain written in trochaic tetrameter) with an abba rhyme pattern. The final line of the quatrain also combines lines 2, 4, and 6 together.

As such, here's how the whole poem comes together (line-by-line):

Line 1: a rhyme in 8 syllables
Line 2: a rhyme in 3-4 syllables

Line 3: b rhyme in 8 syllables
Line 4: b rhyme in 3-4 syllables

Line 5: c rhyme in 8 syllables
Line 6: c rhyme in 3-4 syllables

Line 7: c rhyme in 8 syllables
Line 8: d rhyme in 8 syllables
Line 9: d rhyme in 8 syllables
Line 10: (Line 2) (Line 4) (Line 6)

*****

Re-create Your Poetry!

Recreating_Poetry_Revise_Poems

Revision doesn’t have to be a chore–something that should be done after the excitement of composing the first draft. Rather, it’s an extension of the creation process!

In the 48-minute tutorial video Re-creating Poetry: How to Revise Poems, poets will be inspired with several ways to re-create their poems with the help of seven revision filters that they can turn to again and again.

Click to continue.

*****

Confused? Here's my attempt at an Ovillejo poem:

Into the World, by Robert Lee Brewer

Where do you place a captured fish?
On a dish.

How do you expect to be heard?
With a word.

Into what are all people hurled?
The world.

And if the meaning seems unfurled
like odd pieces to a puzzle,
don't delay haiku or ghazal
on a dish with a word--the world!

*****

A couple more notes on the Ovillejo:

  1. I don't believe lines 1, 3, and 5 have to be formatted as questions. It's just how I did it for my example.
  2. As with many modernized forms, I've also seen a range of syllables used. (As if poets prefer to bend the rules, right?
Connecting the Dots vs. Drawing the Whole Damn Picture: A Veteran Ghostwriter Takes Back His Pen and Finds Something To Say

Connecting the Dots vs. Drawing the Whole Damn Picture: A Veteran Ghostwriter Takes Back His Pen and Finds Something To Say

Writing for oneself after a decades-long career as a ghostwriter is a challenge unto itself. Here, author Daniel Paisner discusses his career as a ghostwriter, how the process differs from writing his own work, and if the two ever intersect.

Who Are Sensitivity Editors? And How Much Does Sensitivity Reading Pay?

Who Are Sensitivity Editors? And How Much Does Sensitivity Reading Pay?

Sensitivity readers offer a very specific and focused edit to manuscripts. Here, C. Hope Clark shares what a sensitivity editor is, how much it pays, and where you can start.

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

New York Times bestselling author Kate White discusses the process of writing her new psychological thriller, The Second Husband.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 615

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a desire poem.

Writer's Digest Best Writing Advice Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best Writing Advice Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top writing advice websites as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

Love the Art. Work the Business. | Nikesha Elise Williams

Nikesha Elise Williams: On the Power of Self-Publishing

In this indie author profile, novelist Nikesha Elise Williams shares her path to self publishing and the creative marketing strategy that's led to her success.

Change of Plans

Change of Plans

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, there's been a sudden and unforeseen change of plans.

5 Things to Know When Writing About the Music Industry

5 Things to Know When Writing About the Music Industry

Author Ashley M. Coleman gives you her top five tricks for writing about the music industry—even if you're not an industry expert.

10 Tips on Covering Events as a Freelance Journalist

10 Tips on Covering Events as a Freelance Journalist

From planning ahead to staying late, Alison Hill shares 10 tips for journalists while covering events as a freelancer.