The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within – Stephen Fry // The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry

I have a dark and dreadful secret. I write poetry.

This is an embarrassing confession for an adult to make. In their idle hours Winston Churchill and Noel Coward painted. For fun and relaxation Albert Einstein played the violin. Hemingway hunted, Agatha Christie gardened, James Joyce sang arias and Nabokov chased butterflies. But poetry? . . . .

I believe poetry is a primal impulse within us all. I believe we are all capable of it and furthermore that a small, often ignored corner of us positively yearns to try it. I believe our poetic impulse is blocked by the false belief that poetry might on the one hand be academic and technical and on the other formless and random. It seems to many that while there is a clear road to learning music, gardening or watercolours, poetry lies in inaccessible marshland: no pathways, no signposts, just the skeletons of long-dead poets poking through the bog and the unedifying sight of living ones floundering about in apparent confusion and mutual enmity. Behind it all, the dread memory of classrooms swollen into resentful silence while the English teacher invites us to ‘respond’ to a poem.

For me the private act of writing poetry is songwriting, confessional, diary-keeping, speculation, problem-solving, storytelling, therapy, anger management, craftsmanship, relaxation, concentration and spiritual adventure all in one inexpensive package.

– Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within (London: Arrow Books, 2007).

Actor and Author Stephen Fry says he doesn’t write poetry for publication but for pleasure, and his genuine enjoyment makes his book an engaging read for would-be poets and anyone who enjoys playing with words. I’ve already learned some technical stuff about metre and iambic feet, with Stephen Fry’s wit that makes it all fun. Since I’m still in his first chapter though, I can’t actually review the book, but I’m sharing it now anyway as one of my finds at the iconic Foyles bookstore, soon to be moving next door on Charing Cross Road in London.

My trip to London was part vacation, part sabbatical, part ministry on a Mennonite Church Canada Learning Tour to meet members of the Anabaptist Network. It was “brilliant” as the British say on all accounts, and I look forward to sharing more.

For now though in honour of Writer Wednesday, I share this one gem from my trip, and will share my other two new books in due course.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: What about you? Do you have a great book for me to add to my already-too-long-but-always-ready-for-more reading list?


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2 thoughts on “The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within – Stephen Fry

  1. Oh I love that quote….both helpful and hilarious! Haha.

    Another fun book which has a great point to it is Rachel Held Evans’ “A Year of Biblical Womanhood”. I haven’t actually read it because of budget, but her youtube talks on it are so great. She uses humor to help folks stop and think about how we throw around the word ‘Biblical’ 🙂 .

    1. Thanks – I haven’t read Rachel Held Evans’ book yet, but have heard a lot about it. I think this one will keep me going for a while though since I’m doing some of the poetry exercises that Stephen Fry suggests too.

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