Whittled Words – Ottava Rima Poem


Welcome to the weekly series, Whittled Words. A series highlighting the innumerable types and styles of poetry to challenge any creative wordsmith. This week’s selection:




With an Italian origin, the earliest known use of the ottava rima poetry form dates back to the fourteenth century, when the form was introduced into the Italian literary scene by poet Giovanni Boccaccio. Two of his major works, the Teseide and the Filostrato were poems that would popularize the format in epic poetry for the next two centuries—leading into the sixteenth century when Ludovico Ariosto wrote one of the most famous works of Italian literature, Orlando Furioso. The format found its popularity among Elizabethan poets, and its structure has been used in some of the most notable poems of all time. 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, was originally written in eleven syllable lines, Lord Byron had adapted it to iambic pentameter (or 10-syllable lines) for his epic Don Juan. You will find examples of both syllabic counts in use today. The form can work as a stand-alone poem or be used as connecting stanzas.


Examples of Ottava Rima Poems:



By Beth Evans

I was trying to find my way in the dark,

Groping blindly about to find the light switch,

I suppose I made some unpleasant remark,

Something that may have been “Lord,, what a *****!”

I was just about to stop searching and park,

My side was starting to develop a stitch,

Anyway, when something hit my you-know-what

I cursed God in heaven before I forgot.



(Lines 1 – 8 of Canto I)

By Lord Byron

I want a hero: an uncommon want,

When every year and month sends forth a new one,

Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,

The age discovers he is not the true one;

Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,

I ‘ll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan—

We all have seen him, in the pantomime,

Sent to the devil somewhat ere his time.




By Caren Krutsinger

Paint on her fingers and paint in her hair

Dad thought her love for art crazy and rash

She was an artist and she did not care

No matter that he could blither and bash

Attitude she did not readily share

Her mother understood and gave her cash

Guarded secret known by only a few

Her dream had been to be an artist too.




By Brad Osborne



My fingernails dig in until made sore

A death hold upon the slightest of dreams

But what is it I am holding on for

In a world where nothing is what it seems

Letting go will only my fall assure

And truth sequestered to the in-betweens

I long to hear the words spoken by you

But only if your words can be seen true


I hope you have enjoyed this entry to the series, Whittled Words. I look forward to your comments, and if you dare, maybe share your own Ottava Rima poem. Thanks for reading!


8 Responses to “Whittled Words – Ottava Rima Poem”
  1. Loved this style for sure. Your example, alongside with Lord Byron’s was phenomenal!

  2. kristianw84 says:

    I don’t know why, but I feel drawn by the history of this form. Of course, Lord Byron and Yeats are on my list of favorites.

    I enjoyed all the examples you shared. Beth’s made me giggle. Yours made me swoon.

  3. beth says:

    love this form, and the artist one has a wonderful ending

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