Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Ottava Rima

I'm back on my iambic pentameter kick. I have been working on a collection of poems about ancient Egypt, and have been trying out several forms in this meter. This week I thought it might be fun to try ottava rima. Ottava rima is an Italian form that consists of a stanza of eight lines with the rhyme scheme abababcc. In English, the lines are usually written in iambic pentameter. Ottava rima is generally associated with epic poems (like Don Juan), but can be used for shorter poems.

An example of ottava rima can be found in the poem Sailing to Byzantium. Here are the first two stanzas of the poem.

Sailing to Byzantium
by William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

So, this is your challenge for this week. Write a poem in the form of ottava rima. This is a great form for storytelling, so if you have one to share, go for it! Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

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