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Customer Review

205 of 210 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book I have wanted since I was 14, 2 Nov. 2005
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This review is from: The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Jan 2009 11:44:45 GMT
This book looks interesting and worth further investigation. :)

In reply to an earlier post on 8 May 2014 17:52:59 BDT
I'd already decided to buy the book, but your review now makes it imperative.

Posted on 26 Mar 2016 00:32:42 GMT
Fabian says:
I do like this book, but there is one horrible gap in his technical understanding of meter. He asserts that, in iambic verse, you cannot have the stress pattern: di-di-DUM-DUM. This is VERY WRONG. This is a common metrical pattern in iambic verse, and as long as it is supported by a grammatical structure, it is a completely valid metrical variation - indeed, many passages will read very awkwardly if you DON'T allow for this pattern.

He also chooses not to mark spondees on the grounds that most spondees have a slightly stronger stress on the second syllable, so are really 'heavy iambs'. While it is true that many spondees could be described as 'heavy iambs' (and, in fact, many pyrrhics could be described as 'light iambs', though he marks those), when you choose not to mark spondees you miss a lot of the expressive metrical patterning. For instance, this is Stephen Fry's scansion of a line from Shakespeare's first sonnet:-

But THOU, conTRACted to thine OWN bright EYES

And here's mine:-

BUT THOU, conTRACted to thine OWN BRIGHT EYES

Note the striking metrical pattern at the end, where three light syllables run into three heavy syllables: di-di-di-DUM-DUM-DUM! Stephen Fry misses this because he refuses to mark a spondee (DUM-DUM) at the end of this line.

I have written three articles on my blog page - versemeter.wordpress.com - which cover all this and more.
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