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The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,629 Ratings  ·  217 Reviews
Stephen Fry believes that if you can speak and read English you can write poetry. But it is no fun if you don't know where to start or have been led to believe that Anything Goes.

Stephen, who has long written poems, and indeed has written long poems, for his own private pleasure, invites you to discover the incomparable delights of metre, rhyme and verse forms.
Whether you
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 6th 2007 by Arrow (first published 2005)
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review will not be impartial, because I love Stephen Fry. I want to marry his brain. If he published his grocery list, I would buy it. I suspect I would enjoy it as well.
Anyway, The Ode Less Travelled is a guide to writing poetry. Not necessarily good poetry, but poetry all the same. Do you know what an iambic pentameter is? Not if you were educated in a state school any time after the sixties, I’ll bet. I first came across the term at university, and managed to bluff my way through all those
May 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not you Fry it's me.

I have always had the desire to love poetry. I've always felt like it was within my grasp but never quite there. If I'm honest after reading the reviews, I was hoping Fry was going to convince me, have some secret this book that finally made me get it.

In retrospect this was naive, I'm never going to love poetry as much as I want to. I might still try writing a little, but if I'm honest, Fry has turned me away rather than pushing me towards doing so.

The level of technical
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: English nerds
The only -- and I do mean the only -- negative thing I can say about this book is that Stephen Fry has taken the run-on sentence to pathological levels. The occasional grammatical slip-up hardly warrants notice, but I swear that throughout all 327 pages of this book, there was at least one run-on sentence per page. Someone (preferably his editor?) needs to pull him aside and introduce him to semi-colons.

Other than that editing issue, this book was buckets of fun and superbly useful for anyone wh
Katia N
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the book by Stephen Fry which is intended to help the reader to start writing poems. In my case, I wanted to understand better how the poetry in English actually works. I love poetry. But I can count on the fingers of the one hand how many English poets I actually enjoy reading. So I wanted to find out a bit more about the poetic tradition in English. And, I think, this book has actually helped a bit.

It is a humorous, charming introduction into the formal prosody talking about metre, rhy
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Fry cleverly drags out the reading of this book by forcing the reader to take a vow to read all the poems aloud and to do all the exercises in the book. I did well until I came to the next-to-last chapter of the book, a chapter on forms. I admit it: I didn't do any of the exercises on writing pantoums and ballads and haiku. I fully intend to go back and do these at my leisure, but I felt a strong need to go ahead and finish the blooming book. It does count, right? I don't think we have any requi ...more
Oct 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The first few chapters are great. The author is just as entertaining, witty, and charming as you would imagine. The use of the iambic pentameter is set out clearly and concisely. This section got me writing, and made me realize I had overlooked the brilliance of Wilfred Owen.

The rest I could have done without.

If you like this - now, go and read an anthology of 100 best poems preferably including something rousing by Kipling.

If you are made of firmer stuff, try the poetry foundation online. They
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not, perhaps, quite so detailed as I would have liked. However, it is written with all the wit, clarity and charming-ness that one has come to expect of Mr Fry. And it is beautifully presented. I particularly appreciated the use of a table to show the way in which a poem worked, its rhyme scheme folding in on itself like a collapsing umbrella.
Becky Lowndes
I learned so much from this book, so entertainingly presented...It was one of those books, like Nine Gates by Jane Hirshfield, that I could have turned around and just started reading again, immediately -- except, in the case of Nine Gates, my friend Tony, coffee shop owner and dead-ringer for Jimmy Stewart, had already, seeing me reading it in his restaurant, asked to borrow it.

Stephen Fry is (surprisingly, to me -- for no good reason) extremely literate and well-educated. Not only can he expla
Keerthi Purushothaman
The book on prosody I did not realise I needed. In the land of free verse, what weight does form hold?

I liked his lines on how nobody would give someone a piano and ask them to "express themselves" by hitting random keys. You may not become a pianist, but you still have to learn the scales. Poetry becomes a fascinating hobby if one sticks to the rules. I can see why Raymond Quenaeau wrote 'Exercises in Style'. A very useful teaching manual/reference book.
Lisa Bower
If you write poetry for pleasure this book is easy to read and will suffice. Do not take it as gospel as the theory is patchy and in some cases incorrect. Not a good book for students. (Except for the odd humorous quote.) There are better books out there!
Pete daPixie
Feb 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I just can't remember touching poetry during my incarceration at school. If I was asked I'd have probably said that a villanelle was a female pickpocket. Stephen Fry's book is a wonderful idiots guide through iambic pentameter, the trochee, spondee and all the twiddledy dees of meter and rhyme from Homer through to Zephaniah.
Mr Fry is a blast. If you are into poetry, then this book, I'm sure, will enrich your experience. If you hate poetry, then 'The Ode Less Travelled' is just what you need to
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've been dipping in and out of this, rather than reading it straight through once. It isn't a textbook, if that's what you're looking for, but it is a very helpful guide. Stephen Fry's tone is light, funny, but his explanations and examples are good, and his attitude toward poetry -- that anyone can do it -- is refreshing. He's got a good overview of a lot of forms.
Matthew Gatheringwater
Dec 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This book is vastly entertaining just to read, but I'd like to use it in the manner for which it was intended, as an instructional guide to exploring poetic forms by writing poetry. I'd love to find other readers who'd like to do the same, so we can compare notes (and poems) as we work our way through the book. If you're interested, contact me through GoodReads or at
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it
This is all the technicalities about writing poetry. Very interesting, how to do it "correctly," but it's much more fun to write it the way you feel it rather than tapping your fingers and wavering your voice to make sure you have enough of the correct beats! Very enjoyable for the knowledge itself.
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Enough already! The first few chapters about iambs were interesting, and a good review. But as he got deeper into the different exceptions and exceptions to the rules I realized that I don't need to know quite so much about the ode.
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant introduction to poetry writing or great for poets (such as myself) who have gotten out of the habit or a bit rusty. Fry's writing style is warm, witty and helpful and the background information about the various forms was very interesting.
Audra Martin
Jun 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Picked it up at a book swap, I'm hoping it will help me get over my fear and disdain of poetry
Jade Heslin
It has been over a month since I read this, and already I have forgotten everything that I learnt. I think my main mistake was going into a book about poetry, when I’m not really a fan of poetry. I dipped into metre a bit at uni; iambic pentameter, trochaic tetrameter... The thought of it still gives me a headache.

The only reason I picked up this book is for work. I’m supposed to be facilitating a creative writing course and I panicked at the thought of having to assist somebody in the writing
Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with a love of language
I loved this book. I think I loved it more because I listened to it rather than reading it. Fry's warm, plummy voice and his tonal variations - now chummy, now wry, now sentimental, now no-nonsense - add so much to the experience.

And the book itself is delightful. If you're a lover of words, of language (particularly, though not necessarily exclusively, of the English language), then you will at least appreciate this book, and probably love it as much as I did, even if you never end up writing a
The Ode Less Travelled is probably one of the most effective instructional books I've ever read. This is a relatively compact book, and yet Fry manages to jam it full of a variety of useful information. Covering Metre, Rhyme, Form and Diction, everything is organised perfectly and clearly, allowing the reader to progress from one chapter to the next with confidence. Fry is sometimes challenging (for a beginner such as myself) but he is never intimidating, and when he is breaking down concepts in ...more
I read this book thinking that if anyone could make me love poetry and want to write my own, that person was Stephen Fry. Sadly, that does not appear to have happened.

I enjoyed the level of passion with which he wrote it, but then again, I can enjoy pretty much anything that's presented by someone with a great passion for whatever it is, even if I don't share that passion myself. I tried some of the poetry exercises, and even found myself enjoying them. And after reading about all the different
Facundo Martin
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Ode Less Travelled is not for the initiated. In fact, on its back cover it proudly quotes the Independent saying it's 'an idiots' guide to the writing of poetry'. But if you're interested in good ol' Poesy and don't know your feet, metres,ceasuras, weak endings and trochaic and phyrric substitutions yet, I couldn't recommend this book enough: don't be put off, take yourself lightly and enjoy the ride. Maybe you've never heard about dactyls or would like to try your hand at a villanelle?
Julie Spencer 4D
This is one for the bookshelf, if you are a keen learned poet. It is a book that can be used as a point of reference and prompt, and S.Fry illuminates to the various forms and styles of poetry that you may want to test yourself against.

If you are a fan of Stephen Fry's many articulate rambles, this is certainly a book offering an educated perspective, in the dabbling of the Poetic Arts.

It is a book I picked up whilst studying Creative Writing at the University, and one of the textbooks I chose
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
First, I adore Stephen Fry. I can’t think of anyone else who speaks so quickly, authoritatively, articulately, and hilariously on more topics than I can name. He had me from line one in the Foreword: “I have a dark and dreadful secret. I write poetry.”

Furthermore, he takes his poetry seriously. He explains every form I’ve heard of and then some, and I’ve read several books on poetic forms. He fills in a lot of history and background, giving samples from the masters. Page after page of reading sc
Travis Cottreau
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A clear, concise, entertaining, witty and often brilliant overview of poetic form, meter, history and so much more. The only thing he doesn't get into very much is content, although there is a small section for it. It's more about learning what the tools are and how you might use them. A poet who knows more of the tools is more likely to be a good poet than one who does not.

I found the description of meter to be the most interesting, since I've never really delved into it that much. I'm still ha
Vrixton Phillips
Ah, leave it to Stephen to remind me that no matter how much I love poetry I'm still horrendously under-read.

This book begins with the barest of bones, the mighty Iamb. Those who payed attention in their High School English classes and took its instruction to heart may be slightly bored by the beginning of the book, which brings us back to basics and then wades into the depths of form. Oddly enough, very little time is spent on the Ode itself, as Mr. Fry often explains that the classical forms
Julie Bozza
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A really interesting read, from which I learned a great deal. The idea here is to help you become a poet, so there are exercises at the end of each section. I did the first one, which was to write twenty lines of iambic pentameters (in singles or couplets). Fry's advice is that you need to devote lots of time and attention to all this, if you really want to write poetry - and my twenty lines made it amply clear that he was right, and alas I do not have the time or the vocation! I am happy if my ...more
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
I have always admired Stephen Fry as an actor and as a person. In fact, at age 12, before Johnny Depp entered my life, Fry was my favourite actor. In both capacities, his intelligence is incredible and wonderfully engaging, which one can see from the beginning of this book. Poetry units in school always left me slightly mystified, but after having read this book I can appreciate a poem for its technical elements as well as its message and without feeling like I have slogged through a mire of str ...more
Robert Beveridge
Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within (Gotham, 2005)

I think every poet at some point, no matter how much they've been raised on free verse, turns his or her attention to formal verse. Thus the enduring popularity of form dictionaries (my personal favorite has always been Dacey and Jauss' Strong Measures). In The Ode Less Travelled (and points to Fry for spelling “travelled” right when my word processor's dictionary flags it as incorrect), Fry has little truck with free v
I admit I never really cared for poetry. I still don't. But Stephen Fry is one of the greatest TV personalities out there (to those who've never heard of him, he has a HUGE amount of credits to his name in British television, and in America. Go look them up, you might be surprised). Anything by him, I was bound to enjoy. 'The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within' is his book on writing poetry - his revered hobby - and it is wonderfully engaging as well as educational, and humorous.

It w
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Stephen John Fry is an English comedian, writer, actor, humourist, novelist, poet, columnist, filmmaker, television personality and technophile. As one half of the Fry and Laurie double act with his comedy partner, Hugh Laurie, he has appeared in A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. He is also famous for his roles in Blackadder and Wilde, and as the host of QI. In addition to writing fo ...more
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“The English language is like London: proudly barbaric yet deeply civilised, too, common yet royal, vulgar yet processional, sacred yet profane. Each sentence we produce, whether we know it or not, is a mongrel mouthful of Chaucerian, Shakespearean, Miltonic, Johnsonian, Dickensian and American. Military, naval, legal, corporate, criminal, jazz, rap and ghetto discourses are mingled at every turn. The French language, like Paris, has attempted, through its Academy, to retain its purity, to fight the advancing tides of Franglais and international prefabrication. English, by comparison, is a shameless whore.” 312 likes
“I have a dark and dreadful secret. I write poetry... I believe poetry is a primal impulse within all of us. I believe we are all capable of it and furthermore that a small, often ignored corner of us positively yearns to try it.” 81 likes
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