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The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within [Hardcover]

Stephen Fry
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Oct 2005
'One of the many joys of being Stephen Fry's editor is his ability to surprise me,' says Sue Freestone. She knew he'd really done it this time when he revealed to her that he'd always had a secret passion for poetry and that his next project was a book about how to write poetry. His book will give everybody the tools to write poetry; covering the full spectrum of the different poetic forms, structures and techniques. According to Stephen, it will make writing poetry fun, easy, satisfying, fulfilling and delightful. Here is a taste of Stephen's own efforts: Lesbian Sappho made this form. With two beats to the final line, her sex life wasn't quite the norm, and nor is mine. This title comes in a gift format perfectly formed hardback for closet poetry writers everywhere.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition edition (20 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009179661X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091796617
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 75,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Fry is a leading light in film, theatre, radio and television the world over, receiving accolades in spades and plaudits by the shovel. As a writer, producer, director, actor and presenter he has featured in works as varied and adored as the movie 'Wilde', the TV series 'Blackadder' and 'Jeeves and Wooster', the sketch show 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie', the panel game 'QI', the radio series 'Fry's English Delight', Shakespeare's Globe's celebrated 2012 production of 'Twelfth Night' (as Malvolio) and documentaries on countless subjects very close to his heart.

He is also the bestselling author of four novels - 'The Stars' Tennis Balls', 'Making History', 'The Hippopotamus' and 'The Liar' - as well as two volumes of autobiography - 'Moab is My Washpot' and 'The Fry Chronicles', which published in six unique editions that combined to sell over a million copies. His third volume of autobiography, 'More Fool Me', is published in September 2014.

Product Description


"Fry's extraordinary book is an idiot's guide to the writing of poetry, a primer, a tutorial with funny turns, an earnest textbook..."
-"Independent on Sunday"
"A smart, sane and entertaining return to basics."
-"Daily Telegraph"

"From the Trade Paperback edition."

Book Description

Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled provides us with a witty and entertaining guide to the mysteries of writing poetry. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
YOU HAVE ALREADY achieved the English-language poet's most important goal: you can read, write and speak English well enough to understand this sentence. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written and Extraordinarily Useful 27 Oct 2007
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I did a degree in Literature, specialising in poetry, and never did really understand how metre works. This book is the first explanation of poetic terminology and the technical aspects of metre, rhyme etc where I have both read and understood fully what I have been reading. Not only that, Fry writes in a way that makes it enjoyable to read his work rather than the usual dusty tomes one gets on the subject. It is wide ranging in subject matter, talking not only about English poetry but also with a great section on genres such as Japanese poetry, particularly Haiku and Tanka, and other forms from round the world. Each chapter comes with exercises to do for the aspiring poet, with examples written by Fry himself. The informality of his approach, i.e. poetry is easy and you can do it too, is a breath of fresh air and I would heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants to know anything about poetry.
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189 of 193 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book I have wanted since I was 14 2 Nov 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
No-one teaches metre. Absolutely no-one. I had some excellent English teachers, but they all seemed to be bound by some Masonic vow not to disclose its secrets. I know a published poet, naturally gifted, a mobile library of learning, and utterly unable to communicate enjoyably even the basics of the lost rules of verse.
Stephen Fry steps in like a concerned uncle and jovially dismisses the nonsense preventing us from growing up and writing proper poetry, better, he accompanies us beyond the foreword so that this, if you ever had any doubt, is never a dry book. He imparts something at least as valuable as laughter (also included), a sense of achievement gained through real knowledge that you can apply, not mere trivia.
Even if you already write free verse and won’t give it up by the end, even if you never really intend to write poetry at all, this is an invaluable aid to understanding the great poets; your hat size will increase, other British people will be grudgingly impressed and grateful sons, daughters, and cute English students will want to spend more time with you, doing their homework for them.
Encouraging the population to write poetry could be a toxically dangerous thing to do, but not, I think, if they read this book.
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108 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Homeric Ode to "The Ode Less Travelled" 15 May 2009
By Katron
How can I extoll this book?
I'm struggling to find a hook.
No words in me I have to serve,
To fete this book as it deserves.
Suffice for now for me to say
With practice, I will find a way.
And on that day the bells on high,
Will ring "God bless you, Stephen Fry!"
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79 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it! 26 Aug 2007
I have been searching for ages for a something - anything - which clearly explained metre and feet, and all the different verse forms: the sonnets, ballads, odes et alia, things which seem to have vanished from English courses (to be superseded by `creativity' and incomprehensible blank verse).
Having read and tried and failed to understand Edgar Allan Poe's account of metre, the fog suddenly lifted after reading Fry's really excellent book. I can now recite Poe's The Raven and understand the underlying metrical scheme; for me an achievement!

This book covers a lot of ground, is surprisingly comprehensive and - as a testament to Fry's brilliance - is easy to read but not patronising. He will probably upset academics by writing clearly and without unnecessary jargon.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars entertaining and at times wise 4 Jan 2008
According to a review by "regular customer", this book "is insulting to contemporary poets, whose writing he calls, quote: 'arse dribble'". In fact the poem referred to as 'arse dribble' is a parodic concoction by Fry himself, knocked off in a few minutes to exemplify the worst features of the worst kind of contemporary poetry. Fry isn't totally dismissive of avant-guard poetry, and his book makes respectful reference to Eliot, Pound, Stevens, cummings and others. It is entertaining and at times wise, and open-minded poets and readers will find it worth looking into.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 18 Mar 2008
By Mikala
I bought this book because I love Stephen Fry's writing, not specifically to learn about poetry. Working my way through it has been a wonderful experience. It is written in a style that feels like a personal tutorial, and the concepts (especially the section on metre) are explained very clearly and with humour. I have been pleasantly surprised at how my writing has developed by doing the exercises, and my appreciation of poetry has deepened. Along with his many other talents, Stephen Fry is a gifted teacher on this subject and I have definitely benefitted by taking this journey with him. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is worth ten stars. 28 April 2007
Stephen fry is one of the rarest of fellows; fiercely intelligent without a trace of intellectual snobbery. I could listen to him all day.

I bought this for my interest in writing discipline. The constraints of form that poets and theatrical lyricists (the decent ones, anyway) work within fascinates me, and has done for years.

Sir Tim Rice has said that his best work always comes when the melody is written first. Having to write within melodic constraints tends to focus the mind much more than a blank page ever will. A blank page allows thoughts to drift and wander; working within certain rules of form ensures that the mind remains sharpened to the task.

Poets are drowning in rules. I was thrilled to learn that there are so many to consider. I have some interest in what Poets have to say, but a huge interest in how they choose to say it.

Stephen Fry has presented this subject in a style that is accessible and amusing and that is a sign of his, perhaps, limitless talent.

The word "genius" is used far too often nowadays. In Stephen Fry's case I think it is wholly appropriate.

I hope you buy this book. It is certainly worth your money.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars This started out really well and has been a great help - my...
This started out really well and has been a great help - my understanding of meter, form etc is much improved. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Alice
5.0 out of 5 stars Great value
Pressie for my delivery ...excellent
Published 1 month ago by Mickeymouse...UK
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, erudite
Fun, erudite, witty, nerdy and above all: encouraging, practical and useful. Stephen also says clearly what he isn't covering e.g. blank and free verse, so you know where you are.
Published 2 months ago by Lucinda Light
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly I have to say look elsewhere
Michelle Thomas with whom I have learned three languages with said 'there is no such thing as a bad pupil, only a bad teacher. Read more
Published 2 months ago by maria taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book. I knew very little about poetry to ...
Fantastic book. I knew very little about poetry to begin with, but I feel I have a much better understanding and appreciation now.
Published 2 months ago by Mel Bourne
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I've only got a couple of chapters into the book (Kindle) and so far it's OK. Time will tell.
Published 2 months ago by Moggy
4.0 out of 5 stars Anyone considering writing poetry must read this book!
I just love Stephen Fry and his wonderful wit and charm. A beautifully written, funny and hugely informative ode to everything poetry! Read more
Published 3 months ago by hilary
5.0 out of 5 stars Such an interesting man.
It's as if Stephen Fry is actually talking the words. He is such an interesting and articulate man. A great read.
Published 3 months ago by Mr Raymond Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars A great companion
Really enjoying using this, in a very active sense, to explore poetry. Have been using it in cross reference with Ted Hughes book Poetry In The Making. A good combo. Recommended
Published 3 months ago by Bernie M
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reference Book
Having enrolled in the Oxford University online Poetry course I decided to buy some additional text books. Out of all the books I purchased, this was by far the best one.
Published 3 months ago by Carole Hill
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