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The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Withinby Stephen Fry
"Fry escorts the reader through a lively, well-organized, and straightforward course on meter, rhyme, form, diction, and poetics today. Witty anecdotes and example poems are interjected into each section....The Ode Less Travelled is an excellent book for aspiring poets wishing to learn more about the forms and techniques of prosody." Carrie Uffindell, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
"I have a dark and dreadful secret. I write poetry....I believe poetry is a primal impulse within all of us. I believe we are all capable of it and furthermore that a small, often ignored corner of us positively yearns to try it." — Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled
Stephen Fry believes that if one can speak and read English, one can write poetry. Many of us have never been taught to read or write poetry and think of it as a mysterious and intimidating form. Or, if we have been taught, we remember uncomfortable silence when an English teacher invited the class to "respond" to a poem. In The Ode Less Travelled, Fry sets out to correct this problem by giving aspiring poets the tools and confidence they need to write poetry for pleasure.
Fry is a wonderfully engaging teacher and writer of poetry himself, and he explains the various elements of poetry in simple terms, without condescension. His enjoyable exercises and witty insights introduce the concepts of Metre, Rhyme, Form, Diction, and Poetics. Aspiring poets will learn to write a sonnet, on ode, a villanelle, a ballad, and a haiku, among others. Along the way, he introduces us to poets we've heard of, but never read. The Ode Less Travelled is a lively celebration of poetry that makes even the most reluctant reader want to pick up a pencil and give it a try.
"In this delightfully erudite, charming and soundly pedagogical guide to poetic form, British actor (narrator of the Harry Potter movies, among other roles), novelist and secret poet Fry leads the reader through a series of lessons on meter, rhythm, rhyme and stanza length and reveals the structural logic of every imaginable poetic form, including the haiku, the ballad, the ode and the sonnet. Writing poetry, like any hobby, should be fun, Fry claims, and while talent is inborn, technique can be learned. Inviting readers to study the wealth of choices of form available in the world's major poetic traditions, Fry himself pens intentionally vapid yet entertaining poems that demonstrate each form's rules and patterning, and ends each lesson with wittily devised exercises for readers. Fry rails against the dumbing down of verse in a section subtitled 'Stephen gets all cross': 'It is as if we have been encouraged to believe that form is a kind of fascism and that to acquire knowledge is to drive a jackboot into the face of those poor souls who are too incurious, dull-witted or idle to find out what poetry can be.' Fry has created an invaluable and highly enjoyable reference book on poetic form, which deserves to achieve widespread academic adoption, despite or even because of its saucy and Anglocentric tone." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"While the comic relief is mostly welcome, Mr. Fry truly shines when ardently defending and explicating the virtues of form....These observations make The Ode Less Travelled something more than a solid and engaging how-to book." Claudia la Rocco, The New York Times
"A smart, sane and entertaining return to the basics If you like Fry's comic manner this book has a lot of charm. People entirely fresh to the subject could do worse than stick with his cheerful leadership." The Telegraph (UK)
"Of all the poetry guides you're likely to read...this one's probably the most entertainingly written and downright useful....English-lit students will learn more from this one book than they will from a stack of more traditional textbooks." Booklist
"[A]t once idiosyncratic and thoroughly traditional — it's filled with quips, quirks and various Fry-isms...yet still manages to be a smart, comprehensive guide to prosody." David Orr, The New York Times Book Review
"Mr. Fry's casual tone sometimes lapses into the slapdash. If generally solid enough, the book occasionally has the feel of something hastily assembled." The Wall Street Journal
Comedian and actor Stephen Fry?s witty and practical guide, now in paperback, gives the aspiring poet or student the tools and confidence to write and understand poetry.
Stephen Fry believes that if one can speak and read English, one can write poetry. In The Ode Less Travelled, he invites readers to discover the delights of writing poetry for pleasure and provides the tools and confidence to get started. Through enjoyable exercises, witty insights, and simple step-by-step advice, Fry introduces the concepts of Metre, Rhyme, Form, Diction, and Poetics.
Most of us have never been taught to read or write poetry, and so it can seem mysterious and intimidating. But Fry, a wonderfully competent, engaging teacher and a writer of poetry himself, sets out to correct this problem by explaining the various elements of poetry in simple terms, without condescension. Fry?s method works, and his enthusiasm is contagious as he explores different forms of poetry: the haiku, the ballad, the villanelle, and the sonnet, among many others. Along the way, he introduces us to poets we?ve heard of but never read. The Ode Less Travelled is not just the survey course you never took in college, it?s a lively celebration of poetry that makes even the most reluctant reader want to pick up a pencil and give it a try.
“Delightfully erudite, charming and soundly pedagogical guide to poetic formÂ… Fry has created an invaluable and highly enjoyable reference book”
“A smart, sane and entertaining return to the basicsÂ… If you like Fr‛s comic mannerÂ… this book has a lot of charmÂ… People entirely fresh to the subject could do worse than stick with his cheerful leadership”
Â—The Telegraph (UK)
“Â…intelligent and informative, a worthy enterprise well executed”
"If you learn how to write a sonnet, and Fry shows you how, you may or may not make a poem. But you will unlock the stored wisdom of the form itself."
Â—Grey Gowrie, The Spectator (UK)
“Â…intelligent and informative, a worthy enterprise well executed”
About the Author
Stephen Fry is a bestselling novelist, comedian, and actor who has appeared in such films as A Fish Called Wanda, Wilde, A Civil Action, Bright Young Things, Gosford Park, and V for Vendetta.
Table of Contents
The Ode Less Travelled
How to Read this Book. Three Golden Rules
I. How We Speak. Meet Metre. The Great Iamb. The Iambic Pentameter. Poetry Exercises 1 and 2
II. End-stopping, Enjambment and Caesura. Poetry Exercise 3. Weak Endings, Trochaic and Pyrhhic Substitutions. Substitutions. Poetry Exercise 4
III. More Metres: Four Beats to the Line. Mixed Feet. Poetry Exercise 5
IV. Ternary Feet: The Dactyl, The Molossus and Tribrach, The Amphibrach, The Amphimacer, Quaternary Feet. Poetry Exercise 6
V. Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. Poetry Exercise 7. Sprung Rhythm.
VI. Syllabic Verse. Poetry Exercises 8 and 9: Coleridge's 'Lesson for a Boy'.
Table of Metric Feet
I. The Basic Categories of Rhyme. Partial Rhymes. Feminine and Triple Rhymes. Rich Rhyme.
II. Rhyming Arrangements.
III. Good and Bad Rhyme? A Thought Experiment. Rhyming Practice and Rhyming Dictionaries. Poetry Exercise 10
I. The Stanza. What is Form and Why Bother with It?
II. Stanzaic Variations. Open Forms: Terza Rima, The Quatrain, The Rubai, Rhyme Royal, Ottava Rima, Spenserian Stanza. Adopting and Adapting. Poetry Exercise 11
III. The Ballad. Poetry Exerdise 12
IV. Heroic Verse. Poetry Exercise 13
V. The Ode: Sapphic, Pindaric, Horatian, The Lyric Ode, Anacreontics.
VI. Closed Forms: the Villanelle. Poetry Exercise 14. The Sestina. Poetry Exercise 15. The Pantoum, The Ballade.
VII. More Closed Forms: Rondeau, Rondeau Redoublé, Rondel, Roundel, Rondelet, Roundelay, Triolet, Kyrielle. Poetry Exercise 16
VIII. Comic Verse: Cento, The Clerihew. The Limerick. Reflections on Comic and Impolite Verse. Light Verse. Parody. Poetry Exercise 17
IX. Exotic Forms: Haiku, Senryu, Tanka. Ghazal. Luc Bat. Tanaga. Poetry Exercise 18
X. The Sonnet: Petrarchan and Shakespearean. Curtal and caudate sonnets. Sonnet Variations and Romantic Duels. Poetry Exercise 19
XI. Shaped Verse. Pattern Poems. Silly, Silly Forms. Acrostics. Poetry Exercise 20
4. Diction and Poetics Today
I. The Whale. The Cat and the Act. Madeline. Diction. Being Alert to Language.
II. Poetic Vices. Ten Habits of Successful Poets that They Don't Teach You at Harvard Poetry School, or Chicken Verse for the Soul Is from Mars but You Are What You Read in Just Seven Days or Your Money Back. Getting Noticed. Poetry Today. Goodbye.
Incomplete Glossary of Poetic Terms
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