- Paperback: 357 pages
- Publisher: Avery; Reprint edition (2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1592403115
- ISBN-13: 978-1592403110
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
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. (Aug. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The author, a noted novelist, comedian, and actor, doubts his new book will make it onto school curricula, and that's a shame. Of all the poetry guides you're likely to read (and there are a ton of them out there), this one's probably the most entertainingly written and downright useful. The book is full of technical terms--spondee, enjambment, trochee--but these are explained so cleverly and so clearly that we very quickly can use them as though we've been doing so all our lives. The book is an education not only in the mechanics of poetry but also in its history. And, naturally, it's full to bursting with the author's delightfully impish wit: "The above," he writes at one point, "is precisely the kind of worthless arse-dribble I am forced to read whenever I agree to judge a poetry competition." Fry's legion of fans will get an enormous kick out of it, and English-lit students will learn more from this one book than they will from a stack of more traditional textbooks. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Fry is perhaps not well-served by his publisher . . . the book needs some development work here and there (basically just filling in bits and piece of information that Fry skips over, expanding the examples, and fleshing out the references) and the design, both of the cover and text should be reworked. The current interior and cover, at least in the US edition, are basically just splitting the difference between a serious textbook and a trade book but the book, and Fry, and students would be much better served by a interior design that formalizes the hierarchies of information in the text and is professionally typeset by a designer who is used to dealing with complex instructional texts. (Oh, I'm sure it's a bit of a hard sell to say "textbook" in a meeting about a book by Fry but there's no reason a good designer can't deal with the information design and make the design modern and lively.) The text is typeset perhaps slightly better than your average mid-list trade book but it is a complex text about, hello!, the English language . . . Fry's overall presentation is undercut by the everyday sloppiness of the typesetting and the attempt to squeeze an instructional text into a simpler standard non-fiction trade text design. Take a look at, say, a Princeton University Press title that covers similar ground and you'll see immediately that there are much better, more useful, ways of designing a book like Fry's. Likewise, thought a much easier problem to solve, the cover doesn't help position the book in the market. It's not a standard trade non-fiction book, it's a freaking genius and classic textbook that every college student should have at the ready. The cover doesn't have to be dry and boring, it can be wild and lively but . . . it needs to be a cover that looks like it belongs next to the CMS, a Fowler's, and a Webster's.
Publisher! Hello! This book could, and should, have a long, long tail. There's no reason I can think of that the book can't be a _standard_ textbook for nearly every college student subjected to a class in poetry. It's not half as dry as the Turco book on poetic form and it's not as detailed as the Miller Williams but I suspect it could have a larger, more enthusiastic audience than either of those books . . . and both of those have gone through many editions. The Fry might be hard sell in a publishing meeting but I suspect it's much, much easier sale at, say, a college English department meeting. What adjunct English prof wouldn't leap at a chance to use a textbook that's a good excuse for watching a bunch of Youtube clips of Fry and Laurie?
So, all of my complaints aside, this is a completely unexpected Five Star Book, easily the best available undergraduate introduction to poetic form and effect. Buy it. Read it. Laugh. Cry. Write poetry!
I am reasonably new to poetry, having only been reading and writing it extensively for a couple of years. I've looked on-line for "how to write better poetry", which is well worth doing, however, Stephen Fry takes all the results from all the google searches and condenses it down into a superbly ordered and explained treatise on why he likes poetry and how poetry is written, analysed and discussed. All of it told in an accessible, witty and fun way. Typical Fry.
I have been hanging out with poets for years. I discuss their work, I discuss my own work, but we rarely, if ever, discuss meter. Most poets I know and talk to barely know what meter is... it's that thing that the high school teacher glazed over, because she didn't understand it herself and that was just one of the things on the curriculum that has to be taught on the way to sanitizing poetry out of the students (I generalize - that was my poetry experience. If you had better, I envy you!). Fry makes it front and centre. Poetry and meter are linked and understanding meter will make you a better poet. I believe this strongly. His overviews of the different types of rhyme (he has at least 4), poetry form and all his examples are lots of fun to read. I was particularly taken with the villanelle form, which Fry confessed, was the form that led to him writing this book in the first place.
I borrowed this book from the library and took it on holiday with me. About half way through, I fought to get an internet connection and ordered a copy, which is now sitting in front of me. It is now my poetry reference and one I go to often.