The Ode Less Travelled
By Stephen Fry
Review by Hannah B (English)
Stephen Fry is not the first person to come to mind when I think about poetry, but it is, as he confesses, his biggest “dark and dreadful secret”. The Ode Less Travelled is a witty and informative guide to poetic form which skilfully merges the difficult-to-tackle subject of prosody with all the entertainment value of a night spent watching QI (Fry tells us in one instance that Presbyterians is an anagram of Britney Spears). Whilst targeted primarily at those wishing to learn how to write poetry, it is an incredibly useful and accessible resource for any English Literature student wishing to take their understanding of poetry to a higher level, and Fry even provides his own work as examples of the various different meters and poetic forms before encouraging his readers to do the same.
The Ode Less Travelled brings life to an area of poetry which has long been considered dull and technical; of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ notoriously incomprehensible sprung rhythm, Fry says: “Relax:…Only three people in the world understand it, one is dead, the other has gone mad and the third is me, and I have forgotten.” The same candour permeates the book in a way that other discussions of prosody fail to do, and so it is definitely worth a read if you’re wanting to take your understanding of poetry higher than a secondary school syllabus allows for.
The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry