The Ottava Rima, or: Form verses creativity

Sangeetha & David’s new poetry project

Once upon a time, two poets who’d never met in person spontaneously began writing verses back and forth to one another over the Internet. Their first poetry project took them some nine months: a 100 verse Hyakuin.

Once they’d completed their oeuvre, the two decided to continue their creative journey together; and Sangeetha came up with a fun new idea, which David loved – to explore different poetic forms together, working through the Alphabet from ‘A’ to ‘Z’.

Every week, for twenty-six weeks beginning in January of the year 2022, they would take turns selecting poetic forms beginning with the letter corresponding to that particular week (1=A, 2=B, etc., etc.) and write poems to one another using that form.

David suggested they call their new project ‘Form verses creativity’, and so it began.


O for Ottava Rima

Sangeetha’s Ottava Rima

Dawn cracks open a golden yellow day 
Old fishing boats bob on ocean glitter
City gulls squawk loudly over sea spray
Tides draw on sands, a wavy white border
Salt crusted driftwood stands guard on the bay
Lost blue bottle, inside it, a letter...
'Dear Finder, Where is here and When is now?
What's the world like? Did we survive somehow?'

David’s Ottava Rima

Of lofty ~ high-rises ~ remain only husks ~
Naught ~ left of even ~ the best-built skyscraper ~
On broken streets ~ thick weeds ~ heavy smell of musk ~
Once barren ~ due to ~ deathly ~ magic vapor ~
Survivors ~ now live ~ in benighted dusk ~
None alive ~ have known ~ any sheet of paper ~
A child ~ in deerskin ~ spurts towards shamanโ€™s tent ~ 
Clutching timeworn bottle ~ fearing dark portent ~

Ottava Rima?

  • written in 8-line octaves;
  • each line is of a 10 or 11 syllable count;
  • rhyme pattern:
    • one octave poem: abababcc
    • two octave poem: abababcc, dededeff
    • three octave poem: abababcc, dededeff, ghghghii


Let’s write poetry together!

When it comes to partnership, some humans can make their lives alone – it’s possible. But creatively, it’s more like painting: you can’t just use the same colours in every painting. It’s just not an option. You can’t take the same photograph every time and live with art forms with no differences.

Ben Harper (b. 1969)

Would you like to create poetry with me and have a completed poem of yours featured here at the Skeptic’s Kaddish? I am very excited to have launched the ‘Poetry Partners’ initiative and am looking forward to meeting and creating with you… Check it out!

22 thoughts on “The Ottava Rima, or: Form verses creativity”

  1. Wonderful writing – a story that takes us forward yet seemingly takes us back, beautifully portrayed.

  2. As I posted on Sangeetha’s blog:
    Question asked and answered – life in future time
    Selecting form – it is hardly easy play
    Two poets twine their words in delicious rhyme
    Post words and emotions turning night to day
    Any who don’t get this see it as a crime
    Partnered with direction makes this crime pay
    Carry on with writing delightful charmed verse
    If you were to publish, I’d open my purse!

  3. Ask the Master: Say, Sensei, if I feel like waxing poemetric, can I just plug out any old abababba… that fits my mood, or will I go to jail?

    1. I’m not quite sure I understand your question, Espie, but if I get the gist of it, my response would be – write whatever and however your heart desires!

  4. I love the contrast between the two poems and how things shift so dramatically between them into a dystopian post-apocalypse world, yet that washed-up bottle remains to tie the two poems (and worlds) together. Exceptionally cool stuff, you two! ๐Ÿ™‚

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