Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Ode Less Travelled - Unlocking the Poet Within, by Stephen Fry

This review will not be impartial, because I love Stephen Fry. I want to marry his brain. If he published his grocery list, I would buy it. I suspect I would enjoy it as well.


Anyway, The Ode Less Travelled is a guide to writing poetry. Not necessarily good poetry, but poetry all the same. Do you know what an iambic pentameter is? Not if you were educated in a state school any time after the sixties, I’ll bet. I first came across the term at university, and managed to bluff my way through all those weird little dashes we had to put above words. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and was really glad when we moved onto novels.

Stephen Fry to the rescue with a very radical idea: anybody can write poetry, once they learn the basics.

This is a fun book. It will not make a poet out of me, but it has already made reading poetry more enjoyable. I feel like I can now spot the tricks of the trade. Samuel Taylor Coleridge defined prose as words in their best order, and poetry as the best words in their best order. It’s like the old pocket watches I used to beg my Mum to take down from the bedroom cupboard and show me when I was a kid: lovely to look at, but even more wonderful when you could pop the back off and see the intricate mechanisms at work.

Don’t be scared of poetry, and don’t be scared of this book. It’s not elitist. It’s fun. Read this book, and you too will be able to spot an iambic pentameter in its natural habitat!

Buy it here at Amazon.

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