Thursday, 14 May 2009

There once was a small boy from Booton - The Ode Less Travelled - Stephen Fry

Advantages: It is a genuinely well thought-out book for those with 'poetry blindness'

Disadvantages: No Index

I have never understood or enjoyed poetry, prose, flowery words, angst in pretty patterns on a page, or whatever you want to call 'it'. Ok I get some of the easy stuff that is literal and in your face with its meaning, and actually says what it is about, in much the same sense as I get a Rembrandt over a Picasso. In other words I like a 'text' to say what it means, and then I take my enjoyment from how well it says it. Anything that is packed full of metaphor, far fetched analogy and needs a high degree of prerequisite knowledge, scares me. 

My enjoyment of poetry extends as far as nursery rhymes, limericks and that WH Auden one about he Night Train, and admittedly I love that poem because it 'sounds' like a train chugging along, when read right - yes I 'get' that one. 

I happened to be discussing my poetry deafness/blindness with a friend, who precisely one week later, presented me with a copy of Stephen Fry's "The Ode Less Travelled." Now what I am going to say first about this book is this; after reading it I am no more of a poet, critic or appreciator of such. No doubt there will be those out there who, after reading it, will be. 

What I did get from this book is something I never was taught at school and that is the who, what, why, where, when and how of poetry. I now understand such things as why people write poetry and why people listen to or read it. I now have an understanding of how it is put together and some of the rules or 'language' of poetry. You will learn about rhyme and metre, form, diction and poetics today over 355 pages, and there are plenty of exercises to help you along the way. I did not realise that poetry theory is as complex as say music or (dare I say it) 'art' whatever that is. If you were interested in poetry at school, but left it behind on leaving, I really do think this book is for you. And, yes I will admit I did learn something, and I will 'make an effort' next time I am presented with something lyrical on the page. And for a subject that can seem deep, an education coming from the Man with a Brain the size of Essex. he really does make it a relatively easy read.

Summary: 9/10

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