Title: The Ode Less Travelled
Author: Stephen Fry
Page Count/Review Word Count: 358
This book is subtitled “unlocking the poet within”, but I don’t know if I’d agree with that. I personally found it supremely off-putting, not because of the information itself but because of the way that it was presented.
I’ve always considered myself a Stephen Fry fan, and I’ve already read a half dozen or so of his books. My mum always accuses him of being pompous, stuck-up and a little unlikeable, but I’d never seen that before. But here, that side of his personality is out in abundance. I mean, it was to the point at which it was making me angry to read it and I only forced myself to continue because I was planning on reading all of Fry’s books. But after this one, I’m not sure if I want to continue.
It wasn’t a problem with the actual content of the book, because it’s all factually correct and has the potential to be quite a useful little reference book. I mean, it tells you everything you need to know about different poetic forms and also the syllable counts, stresses and rhyming schemes that underlie these forms and make them work in the first place. I had no problem with the information itself because it was always correct as far as I could see.
The problem that I had was with the way in which the information was delivered. Fry came across as so smug about it all that it really put me off, especially when he pulled some of his little tricks, like deliberately writing bad free verse poetry and then using that to evidence his belief that free verse poetry isn’t worth reading.
Personally, I prefer free verse poetry, but I used to like rhyming poetry as well. After reading this book, I’m not so sure. Fry kind of makes out as though the two forms of poetry can’t coexist, but I’m betting against him. He seemed like a grumpy old man who’s annoyed because poetry has evolved and he hasn’t.