Espinela Poetry Form: Scribe Your Sentiments

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Here’s what the Espinela poetry form is:

The décima espinela is a poem written in ten-line verses utilizing isosyllabic rhymed lines.

This variant of the décima was invented by Vicente Espinela, whose name lives on in the name of the poem, much like how we refer to sonnets as ‘Shakespearean’ or ‘Petrarchan.’

So if you want to learn all about the Espinela poetry type, then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s get into it!

Espinela Poem Type (Simply Explained & Examples)

Types of Poetry: Espinela

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The espinela is the most common variant of the décima.

It is a Spanish poem form popularized by Vicente Espinela, from whom the poem gets its name.

Espinela, being a musician, designed the form to be aesthetically pleasant when recited.

I should briefly mention that it is more appropriate to refer to the form in its full name, as the décima espinela, but for the sake of brevity (and my fingers) we will be calling the form an espinela for the duration of this article.

Espinelas are ten lines long and utilize strict syllable counts and rhyme scheme, similar in some ways to the more widely known sonnet.

It should be noted that while espinelas are the most popular form of the décima, they are absolutely not the only nor even the oldest one in use.

Basic Properties of an Espinela

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Rhyme StructureStrict
OriginSpain; Vicente Espinela
PopularityMainly popular in Spanish-speaking countries

How Is an Espinela Structured?

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The espinela is octosyllabic and isosyllabic, meaning every line throughout the entire poem will have exactly eight syllables each.

This allows for the poem to have a sense of uniformity and rhythm inherent to the structure, though it does facilitate this further through a strict adherence to rhyme.

The rhyme scheme for the espinela is ABBAACCDDC.

There is some disparity on how the divide between the fourth and sixth line is handled among English sources.

In general, sources claim that there should be a caesura after the fourth line but that the poem should still remain in one full stanza.

It’s interesting to note that the rhyme scheme would actually consist of four rhymed couplets if you were to remove the first and last line.

Those two lines are the only real complication of the rhyme scheme, so if you just remember that most of the poem is rhymed couplets, it should be easier to memorize the structure.

This makes it one of the very few poem forms where it might be easier to memorize the structure from the middle rather than from either end.

The outlier is Writer’s Digest, which claims that the espinela is to be broken up into a separate quatrain and a sestet.

Since I have found literally no evidence to back up this claim elsewhere, I’m going to treat this with skepticism.

On a petty sidenote, they also misspelled his name.

It’s Vicente, not Vincente.

It’s generally expected that there will be a stress on the seventh syllable of each line, but English writers may choose to omit this tradition since it is much more natural in the form’s native Spanish than it is in English, where our stresses tend to fall naturally on even numbers.

There are conflicting claims about how many stanzas the poem should be.

If we’re going off of Spanish tradition, my best guess is that it can be any number of verses as long as they all follow the original ten-line structure.

Example of an Espinela

A young girl is walking along the road.


I think often of her black hair
as it flows while she walks away
with not a word more left to say
nor any real reason left to care;
She was eager to leave me there
without anyone left to love
for she had already had enough
of living out her life with me
wanting only now to be free.
It is her I’m still thinking of.

While the above example is certainly not the most elegant espinela ever written, it should give some basic insights into the form.

In this example I went with a one-verse poem, since we only really need to cover this structure once over.

If it were longer, each subsequent verse would follow the same rules.

The ABBAACCDDC rhyme scheme should be readily apparent, as should the syllable counts upon a quick read.

One element to take special note of is the semi-colon on the fourth line.

This neatly divides the poem into two sections, but it can be a period or even a comma as long as it signifies a pause when spoken.

This particular poem uses enjambment on the other lines to emphasize this pause.

Tips for Writing an Espinela

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Make sure the first and last lines use easy rhymes.

By this, I mean rhymes that you can comfortably come up with several words for.

Using an end sound twice is generally easy, but three or more repetitions tends to complicate things in English since the language isn’t designed to repeat itself.

(Largely due to the mixture of Germanic and Romantic influences on modern English due to France and England’s rather dysfunctional history together.)

Thankfully, eight syllables is a comfortable space to set up the next end sound if you’re only utilizing monosyllabic rhymes.

As long as you take each line one at a time, you should be fine.

At worst, you might have to replace a line that didn’t end well somewhere, but you’ll rarely have to redo an entire segment of the poem.

If possible, you may want to have a poetic turn after the fourth line.

This would be an interesting way to take advantage of the expected break between the fourth and fifth line, though it’s only a thought.

In reality, you’re free to handle this moment in the poem however you see fit.

Poet’s Note


I would have loved to give you a thorough history of the evolution of the form, but I don’t speak Spanish.

Would you be surprised if I told you that this Spanish form invented by a Spanish poet which is mostly only popular in Spanish-speaking countries doesn’t have many English references?

My kingdom for a translator.

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