Cheers! Happy 2016, and welcome to The Bar. De Jackson (WhimsyGizmo) here. Pull up a stool, and let’s untangle a fun poetic form you won’t find much info about here in the Western world (at least not in English): the Ovillejo.

As with my introduction to most forms, I first learned about the Ovillejo from Robert Lee Brewer over at Poetic Asides.

The explanation below is offered from several online sources, which seem to be attributed most often to 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.” 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 (8 syllables). 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.

How cool is that? A poem that is literally a tight little bundle of tangled words that unravel themselves at the end? I like this explanation because I learn best by example, and it offers lots of room for interpretation with meter, etc.

A more strict explanation is offered over at Popular Poetry Forms:

The term, which derives from skein, refers to a tightly wound little 10-line verse that rolls out in measured segments, then goes back and picks up the short threads for the final unraveling. Iambic with a rhyme scheme of aa bb cc cddc. The first six lines alternate between tetrameter and dimeter; the next three are tetrameter, and the final line consists of L2, 4 & 6 all in a row.

Basically, broken down line by line, you’re looking at (aa bb cc cddc):
1. A longish line.
2. A shorter line rhyming with line 1, that will become the beginning of line 10.
3. A longish line.
4. A shorter line that rhymes with line 3, and becomes the middle of line 10.
5. A longish line.
6. A shorter line that rhymes with line 5, and becomes the end of line 10.
7. A longish line that rhymes with line 5.
8. A longish line.
9. A longish line that rhymes with line 8.
10. Line 10 combines lines 2, 4 and 6, verbatim, into a complete thought.

The earliest Ovillejos are thought to have been employed by Miguel de Cervantes, in Don Quixote. You can read a great explanation and translation here.

This Ovillejo about the Ovillejo is just too much fun:

The Ovillejo
by Rhina P. Espaillat

Admit you’re tempted by it:
Well, try it!
It’s full of kinks and quirks.
It works
by stealth: you steal a kiss
like this,
or steal a basethey’ll miss
the ball until you’ve stepped
to safety! It’s a plot kept
well: Try it; it works like this.
I’m no master, but here are a couple of mine, to get the ball (of yarn) rolling:

Full Disclosure 

It isn’t that I can’t trust
       you, just
that even heaven up above
       never loved
these dreams, so truth will fight
       me, right?
Here in my arms wrapped tight,
your heart concealed
all is revealed:
       You just never loved me right.
Second Verse, Same as the First

With its whole heart unfurled,
       the world
(to hell, and back again)
              will spin
a yarn, a web, ashamed;
       the same
old tired tune, overplayed.
By way of proof,
here’s the full truth:
The world will spin the same.

More here or here.


Still feeling tangled?

If you’re not feeling up to attempting this new form today, please do still join us at The Bar. Knit us a poem where something is hidden, or revealed. Write a poem about a bundle (of joy, of words, of twigs). Or write a poem that contains a tiny poem hidden within it.

You know the drill. Link your poem up below, and then barhop to see who all tried out (and mastered) this marvelous little form.