The Cywydd llosgyrnog is the second Welsh form of this challenge and includes many of the features you come to expect from a Welsh form including: strict syllable count, both end rhymes and internal rhymes, and an extremely difficult-to-pronounce (and spell) name!
Using this handy online Guide to Welsh Pronunciation, the best I can suss out as far as the pronunciation of this form would sound something like “kuh-with th-laws-gurr-nog,” but please understand this is only an educated guess.
Requirements of the Form
The Cywydd llosgyrnog form prescribes no restrictions in content or meter, but there are various other requirements that must be adhered to rather strictly.
– Consists of any number of single six-line stanzas (sestets)
– Lines 1, 2, 4 and 5 contain eight syllables – Lines 3 and 6 have seven syllables
-End rhymes (lines 1-6): aabccb -Internal rhymes (lines 3 and 6*): ac *generally falling on syllable 3 or 4
**Special Announcement: This week’s post will feature a bonus original poem from poet and singer-songwriter Brandon Barnett!**
Meet the Décima
The Décima poetic form is widely used in poetry and song throughout Spain and Latin America, though the requirements may vary somewhat by region. People who write and perform décimas are often referred to as decimistas or deimeros. The form is also known as the espinela in Spanish, after the creator of the modern version of the décima, writer and musician Vicente Gómez Martínez-Espinel.
A few regional variations are listed below. Pick your favorite, or try them all!
Puerto Rico: Consists of a 10-line stanza, with 8 syllables per line (octosyllabic) and an abbaaccddc rhyme scheme
Italy: The decima Italiana is a 10-line poem, with 8-syllable lines and an ababcdedec rhyme scheme
Ecuador: Here the décima is a 44-line poem made up of a quatrain and four ten-line stanzas. It’s nearly identical to the glosa poetic form
Poetry and Song
The song form of the décima usually consists of 44 lines and is often improvised. Much like the “freestyle rap battle” of modern hip-hop, Decimeros often challenge one another with dueling songs as a way to show off the composer’s wit and skill.
Requirements of the Form
The requirements listed below are for the Puerto Rican poetic form:
– Single 10-line stanza
-Subject matter varies widely, but common themes include philosophy religion, and politics. Satirical décimas are often humorous.
– 8 syllables per line
An Original Décima Poem
The cameras flash, Trump fakes a smile; He holds his breath, swallows a growl, And throws a roll of paper towels. Empathy missed by a mile For Puerto Rico, enchanted isle. No concern for the common health of neighbors in the commonwealth; Once slaving for the hacienda, Victims of encomienda, They fight to own a sense of self.
*An Original Décima Poem by Special Guest, Brandon Barnett*
We never knocked on rust-streaked doors but entered like the bums we were with hair so ragged–greased like fur– and alcohol from every pore
The only word we spoke was “more!” with glassy eyes on shining things refulgent suds the evening brings and singing out in harmony
But all that now is far from me Though oft-recalled with mem’ry strings
The Miltonic Sonnet is named after the 17th century English poet, political writer, and civil servant, John Milton. With the publishing of his epic poem Paradise Lost, widely regarded as one of the greatest works written in the English language, Milton solidified his reputation as one of the greatest English poets of his time. Milton’s work would live on to influence Romantic poets such as William Blake and William Wordsworth.
Milton adapted the Petrachan sonnet (named for Italian poet-scholar Petrach) and made the popular form his own. He took the sonnet out of the category of “love poems” and brought it into the world of politics, religion, and social issues. He also introduced enjambments (the technical term used for when a poet carries a line through to the next line), while at the same time removing the space between what was before the first and second stanzas, thus tightening up the form. By removing the volta (also known as a pivot, or turn) after the octave (first eight lines), and varying the rhyme scheme of the sestet (proceeding six lines), he further opened up the form.
A reading of one of Milton’s most famous poems should help demonstrate these contributions to the evolution of the sonnet:
“When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”
When I consider how my light is spent, Ere half my days in this dark world and wide, And that one talent which is death to hide Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest He returning chide; “Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?” I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed, And post o’er land and ocean without rest; They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Requirements of the Form
– Fourteen lines – No spaces between ‘stanzas’ – Lines contain enjambment (see above for brief definition)
– Occasional, political, and religious subjects – Unlike other sonnets, does not have a distinct volta (also known as a pivot) after the eighth line
– Iambic pentameter (ten syllables per line, unstressed-stressed pattern).
– First eight lines (octave): abbaabba – Preceding six lines (sestet): often cdecde, but variable
An Original Miltonic Sonnet
The viral imagine haunted every screen– A photograph too horrid to ignore: A pair of bloated bodies on the shore. In Congress followed yet another scene Of bickering and washing white-hands clean. No older than The Virgin when she bore The Savior that they claim to so adore, The budding mother wonders what they mean. As children hungry, dirty, sick and scared Are torn away and locked in concrete halls Lay weak with worry, overwhelmed with fear, The value of their lives is weighed and tared; As Washington debates the costs of walls, Who dares to speak of Christ’s compassion here?
Notes on My Original Sonnet
I challenged myself to write a sonnet that was true to the Miltonic themes of politics, religion, and current events, and found in the issue of immigration a combination of all three. The line “children hungry, dirty, sick and scared” was taken from this BBC News article and served as the fulcrum of this poem.
The Ovillejo is the first form of this challenge with a lineage that can be traced back to a single well-known source: Miguel de Cervantes’ epic comedy (or is it a tragedy?) The Ingenious Gentleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha, better known today simply as Don Quixote (1605).
Untangling the Ovillejo
Ovillo in Spanish means “ball,” usually indicating a ball of yarn or wool. A Poet’s Glossary explains: “The word ovillego refers to a spool of thread or wool, and this complicated Spanish stanzaic form is ‘tied in a little knot’…[which] unravels in ten lines.”
Learning by Example
The Ovillejo is a complex form which can perhaps be best introduced through example. Below you’ll see an excerpt from Paul Archer’s English translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ poem, “Ovillejos” from Don Quixote, followed by the original Spanish version.
Ovillejos (Archer Translation)
What undermines all I attempt? Contempt! What heaps sorrow onto me? Jealousy! And what gnaws me through and through? Missing you!
That’s why nothing will do to make my distress less – I’m killed by hopelessness, contempt, jealousy and missing you!
Ovillejos (Original Spanish)
¿Quién menoscaba mis bienes? ¡Desdenes! Y ¿quién aumenta mis duelos? ¡Los celos! Y ¿quién prueba mi paciencia? ¡Ausencia!
De este modo en mi dolencia ningún remedio se alcanza, pues me matan la esperanza, desdenes, celos y ausencia.
Translation vs Original
It’s an understatement to say that translating poetry in any language is a difficult task. In a form with as many requirements as this has, you’ll likely have to make some compromises. Even a non-Spanish speaker should be able to notice that Archer’s translation has preserved the original’s punctuation (excepting the exclamation in the last line) and rhyme scheme, but not the syllable count. The lesson here is you can’t rely solely on any translation to learn the requirements of a given form.
Structure: – The Ovillejo is a poem consisting of ten lines
– These ten lines are usually made up of a sestet (6 line stanza) and a quatrain (4 line stanza)
– Any number of Ovillejos can be connected to create a sequence (you’ll see here that Cervantes’ “Ovillejos” is a sequence of three Ovillejos)
Content: – Lines 1, 3, and 5 of the first stanza must ask a question, which the preceding line (2, 4, 6) must answer
– The second stanza reflects and amplifies the first stanza
– The last line of the second stanza must be a culmination of lines 2, 4, and 6 of the previous stanza (this is known as a redondilla). The exclamation point on the final line appears to be optional
Rhyming: – The first stanza can either be seen as three couplets, or a sestet with an aa bbcc rhyme scheme
– The second stanza is always a quatrain, with a cddc rhyme scheme
Syllable Count: – In the first stanza, lines 1 ,3, and 5 consist of eight syllables. Lines 2, 4, and 6 consist of two to three syllables
– Lines 7, 8, and 9 consist of eight syllables in the second stanza
– The final line should consist of seven to ten syllables
If all of these rules are leaving your brain feeling like a ball of tangled yarn, here’s a breakdown:
Ovillejo Requirement Breakdown*
Line 1: a rhyme in 8 syllables (question) Line 2: a rhyme in 2-3 syllables (single word exclamation) Line 3: b rhyme in 8 syllables (question) Line 4: b rhyme in 2-3 syllables (single word exclamation) Line 5: c rhyme in 8 syllables (question) Line 6: c rhyme in 2-3 syllables (single word exclamation)
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) (optional exclamation)