The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry ReviewThe Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within
by Stephen Fry
Gotham, August, 2006
Hardcover, 384 pages
You have no doubt enjoyed Stephen Fry as Jeeves, the consummate expediter and unflappable gentleman's gentleman for the hopelessly inept Bertie Wooster in the series shown on public television a few years back. Stephen Fry is also known to American audiences from movies such as Gosford Park and a Fish Called Wanda, the Blackadder series on TV. He is also the narrator for the audio versions of the Harry Potter series. What is not generally known is that Stephen Fry writes poetry for self expression and enjoyment.
Stephen Fry is the teacher you wish you had encountered in a poetry or literature course in sophomore English Literature. He leads the reader through the once boring exercises in metre, feet and rhyme and makes them enjoyable. The wit that he includes in the exercises draws the reader in to the process. The hilarious poetry that Fry comes up with is enough to tempt anyone to try to follow his lead. One exercise is to try to write in iambic pentameter about what the writer has dreamed about, what one would like to eat and what can be seen outside one's window. Then Fry follows with his own hilarious version of the assignment. The author adds his own ribald creations as examples throughout the lessons, which makes the point that quite ordinary subjects can be written about using complicated poetic forms. One example, using mundane information such as directions to one's house, is written in anapaestic hexameters and is quite entertaining. Other assignments include writing verses in iambic pentameter about lost luggage and being stuck in traffic.
The Ode Less Travelled is thorough in its explanation of all the forms of poetry, and delightful in the examples given. Even if the reader does not follow the full course and become a writer of poetry, a new appreciation of reading poetry will definitely be gained. Perhaps, one might hope, hip hop verse will not be the only poetry experienced by the youth of the twenty-first century.
--Sarah Reaves White
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