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Old 06-14-2002, 09:02 AM
ginger ginger is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: New Hampshire
Posts: 847

During her time as guest lariat, Rhina Espaillat introduced us to the ovillejo. Since there have been a couple ovillejos on the met boards in the last couple days, I thought it might be helpful to go back and look at that introduction. I was going to pop the original thread back up, but since it's very long and includes several additional topics, I've copied and pasted the relevant portion here. I suppose I really ought to try one of these myself. Best of luck to all of us! --Ginger

Originally posted by Rhina P. Espaillat:

...the "ovillejo," an old Spanish verse form that means "tight little bundle." "-ejo" is one of our blessed diminutives, and "ovillo" means "tangled ball of yarn." I've seen only a few of them, but it was love at first sight, because of the
fun involved. Here's a home-made sample that will show why it's called what it's called, and illustrate the way the lines are related to each other. The last line is a "redondilla," a "little round" that collects all three of the short lines. The rhyme scheme is established, but the meter is at the poet's discretion, although in Spanish the longer lines tend to be octosyllabic. Here goes:


Evidence says I lie
But I--
Though all the world concur--
One voice, and one alone:
My own.
The experts cluck and groan,
"No, no! It's round, not flat!"
Their data second that.
But I prefer my own.

Ovillejos don't have to be light verse, of course.

Old 06-14-2002, 12:09 PM
Tim Whitworth Tim Whitworth is offline
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 210

Very helpful, Ginger. Thanks for posting this.

Old 06-14-2002, 08:13 PM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 7,378


I've loved this poem since the moment I heard Rhina Espaillat recite it at at the St. Agnes Library recently.

It's characteristic of Rhina that she can express the love of her/his own work a poet needs to survive as a poet in this world, and express it for all poets. There is a bit of egomaniac in every good poet, or s/he wouldn't spend decades writing, often at great expense—financial, emotional, and possibly physical—to him/herself.

Perhaps some other ovillejos could be posted here, because it would be interesting to compare this to some others. The rhyme scheme is clear, but the creation of these heterometric lines appears to me a terrific musical challenge.

This tiny poem gives one such a sense of intimate connection with the poet! That is simultaneous with its ability to bring the reader beyond the terrible trickiness of the artistic ego: that ego which is the sine qua non of art, yet which so often gets the poet and artist into trouble at various points in her/his life, and sometimes very serious trouble indeed. The need to focus on one's own work to the detriment of everything else around one is at once ecstatic and problematical. Many don't survive it, either as artists or as persons.


Old 06-15-2002, 09:22 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 13,797

All this ovillejo talk caused me to try writing some, which confirmed for me how deceptively difficult these things are to write. This isn't good enough to post for workshopping, but I guess I'll take Terese's suggestion and post it here for what it's worth.



I guess I shouldn't doubt.
the ample sky above
your love
would still know how to fly.
I'll die
since I can't rise as high
as your love needs to go.
But I can't stay below.
Without your love, I'll die.


My love, you ask me why
I lie
although my conscience gnaws:
it fits me like a glove.
I love
how lies lift me above
the dread that I might lose you.
I don't mean to confuse you.
I lie because I love.

</FONT f>

Old 06-15-2002, 07:02 PM
ginger ginger is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: New Hampshire
Posts: 847

Roger (I know it's Bob, but for the sake of not confusing the other members, I'm going to stick with Roger if that's okay with you), I'm not crazy about the first ovillejo, but the second is a really fine poem, imho. It's well crafted and has something very interesting to say. I particularly like the way the redondilla collects the shorter lines but uses them in a slightly different context. You've handled it in a way that's not merely clever, but very meaningful. Congrats on that. My advice would be to nix the first and send the second out.

Old 06-16-2002, 01:11 AM
Kevin Andrew Murphy Kevin Andrew Murphy is offline
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: San Jose, California, USA
Posts: 3,257


Was wondering--are these supposed to be strictly iambic, or is trochaic allowed? Also, are words allowed to form elisions and go around the corner, so long as the final line has all the syllables?

Was playing around with it, and came up with the following:

Sweet Revenge

Oh look! Gingerbread men
and then
a hexenhaus, so rich...
The witch
is there. Her gingerbread
is dead-
ly, children lured, misled, and fed
to the members of her coven.
Gretel shoves her in the oven
and then the witch is dead.

Old 06-16-2002, 10:35 AM
ginger ginger is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: New Hampshire
Posts: 847


What you see above is most of what I know about the form. Personally, I have mixed feelings about hypenation at the end of a line. I've done it in one my own poems (room-mate) to keep the rhyme with 'room', but I don't think I'd hyphenate before 'ly' as you've done below. Then again, Marilyn Hacker uses the device very frequently, and in strange ways such as:

black and gold on the snow where terrible chil-
dren honed the facets of the winter city.

so I suppose each of us has to decide what we're comfortable with.

Old 06-16-2002, 01:14 PM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 7,378

Does anyone know if there's ever been a thread at Erato on the subject of hyphenating words in order to rhyme? I wonder what others think about it; for myself, I'd keep looking for alternatives. Of course, rearranging lines would mean an internal rhyme instead...but that will usually wreak havoc in a poem in other ways. This is a tangent here, but I'd really just like to know if the subject has been covered.

Old 06-16-2002, 01:44 PM
Carol Taylor Carol Taylor is offline
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Houston, TX, USA
Posts: 7,799

I know it's been mentioned in passing, but I'm not sure we established a consensus. In my opinion it works well for light verse, but I wouldn't use it except for comic effect. A more dignified and less contrived alternative is a hypersyllable after the rhyme.

Old 06-16-2002, 01:57 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Plum Island, MA
Posts: 10,408

Continuing the highjack of the ovillejo thread, I agree with Carol on hyphenation. It can be a delight and a big plus in light verse (or what I think of as "ultra-light'), but has no place at all in a "straight" poem. At best it's a distraction - like breaking into a few tap-dance steps while playing the cello - and at worst the writer looks desperate.

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