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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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VINE VOICEon 2 November 2005
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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on 15 May 2009
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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on 26 August 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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on 4 January 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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on 18 March 2008
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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on 16 April 2006
Stephen Fry walks the reader through the concepts and rules of poetry, and makes you practice as you go! Considerate enough to volunteer his own examples first, and also leave a blank space for you to write, if you have ever had a notion that you would like to write poetry, this is a most enjoyable book. The tone is conversational, never condescending, always entertaining and most of all, it conveys Fry's love of poetry and his delight in sharing his (I thought) considerable knowledge. A gem, it should be offered in schools and writers' groups worldwide.
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on 2 February 2006
This book is written as if Stephen Fry is in the room with you, taking the fear of poetry away and inspiring you to have a go yourself. I found myself responding to his orders - 'Don't let your eye fall further down the page than this line until you have taken out your pencil or pen' - writing my own stuff and then reading my attempts proudly to my long-suffering family. I am so encouraged by his gentle instruction and loving having a go myself.
Also, you will find yourself wanting to read more of the poets celebrated throughout.
It is not for the monosyllabic, though; some degree of literacy is useful to get the most from the book.
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on 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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on 17 November 2008
I confess to picking this book up because I saw Stephen Fry's name on the spine. But it was not fan-ship that made me unable to put it down again. I had no particular interest in poetry when I started reading it. Over the years I had written a few scribbled poems here and there, but that's as far as it went. This book has changed all that.

Since reading this book I have bought, read, and loved poetry for the first time in my life. I can actually appreciate what I'm reading now instead of being bored. I have also begun writing with so much more satisfaction than before. There's something empowering about knowing the "rules", rather than just floundering along trying to make things rhyme. Whether you choose to use them or not is up to you, he encourages you to try everything your own way, but whatever you decide, it's now a *choice* rather than just not knowing any better.

The text is written as if he is speaking to you. It's all very light and conversational, but it never feels like he's dumbing it down. You get all the technical jargon explained and used in its proper place, but in such a way that it actually makes *sense*. He will explain the root of a word perhaps (amphibrach - amphi: on both sides, brach: short. A foot with short stresses on both sides of a heavy stress.) which makes things stick in my head all the more. Instead of being bombarded by pompous long words, they're all taken apart and you realise that they are there for more than just confusing us mere mortals. The meaning becomes clearer the more the words are used, and the first time you read something like, "Most people would say that limericks are certainly anapaestic in nature and that amphibrachs belong only in classical quantitive verse," and realise that you understood every bit of it, and not only that, but you have an opinion on the topic... well, it's a very good feeling.

It's also the first how-to writing book that has actually made me laugh out loud. His humour is transfused throughout the book, making it a highly enjoyable read. He never takes himself overly seriously, but at the same time obviously cares deeply for his subject and is writing to share it with others.

I love this book very very much and have recommended it to friends, who have bought it and loved it as much as I do.

I'm living in hope that he might write more books like this!
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