Stephen Fry – The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within (Arrow Books, 2005)
When the choir sang on Christmas Eve, their voices were melodious, the words were profound and the old cathedral looked stunning. But all I was thinking about was the structure of the song: each stanza a tercet with a rhyming couplet in iambic tetrameter followed by a refrain of iambic bimeter.
This is what reading The Ode Less Travelled has done to me.
The Ode Less Travelled is an introduction to writing poetry. I don’t write poetry very often – perhaps for a family member’s birthday and odd occasions besides – but I had a great deal of fun reading this book. With characteristic wit Fry, takes you through the process of writing poetry – using different metres, rhyming arrangements and forms. I hadn’t realised how little I knew.
You need your notebook on hand because at the end of each section Fry gives a poetry exercise where you have a go at what has been described. You develop some new skills and by the end have written in a huge variety of forms. These exercises can take quite a long time, so you can’t expect to shoot through the book quickly. But they are fun and very satisfying.
Examples of features being described are drawn from all the greats and it gave me a heightened appreciation of their art, so I would be surprised if you could go away from this book not wanting to read more poetry. In my case, it also made me keen to start teaching some poetry.
Regardless of whether you ever read or write poetry, I am sure you too would enjoy The Ode Less Travelled.