Fry on poetry – teaser

I went recently on a shopping spree through the highstreet charity shops in my area and I spent a small fortune (£2.50 – sorry Mr Fry I’m not usually that tight) on Stephen Fry’s book The Ode Less Travelled

For those not yet familiar with the author’s name (how dare you?- here a huge consternation mark not yet invented) here is a very short presentation stolen from an unreliable but yet handy site called Wikipedia (I bet you know this one):

Stephen John Fry (born 24 August 1957) is an English[1][2] actor, writer, journalist, comedian, television presenter and film director, and a director of Norwich City Football Club.

The book is about poetry but let me re-quote Independent on Sunday:

“Fry’s extraordinary book is an idiot’s guide to the writing of poetry…You can’t but marvel at Fry’s easy familiarity with the rictameter and the rondeau redouble and applaud the energy of his evangelistic zeal”

Here is a taster from one of the three golden rules of approaching poetry (1. take your time; 2. don’t be afraid; 3. always have a notebook with you) set by the master himself:

In our age one of the glories of poetry ist that it remains an art that demonstrates the virtues and pleasures of TAKING YOUR TIME. You can never read a poem too slowly, but you can certainly read one too fast.

Poems are not read like novels. There is much pleasure to be had in taking the same fourteen-line sonnet to bed with you and reading it many times over for a week. Savour, taste, enjoy. Poetry is not made to be sucked up like a child’s milkshake, it is much better sippped like a precious malt whisky. Verse is one of our last stands against the instant and the infantile. Even when it is simple and childlike it is be savoured.

Always try to read verse out loud: if you are in a place where such a practice would embarrass you, read out loud inside yourself (if possible, moving your lips). Among the pleasures of poetry is the sheer physical, sensual, textural, tactile pleasure of feeling the words on our lips, tongue, teeth and vocal cords.

If he was a preacher in any church or religion I would have paid attention volens-nolens to what he had to say; that convincing is he when speaking about his long lasting love: poetry

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5 Responses to Fry on poetry – teaser

  1. Camix says:

    Regarding time and having a notebook (notepad on mobile is acceptable as well, isn’t it?) are two essential things I also need and cherish. although, you know… it is completely useless to have the notebook if you don’t have time because you had no place to take it from. and it’s even more useless to take time if you don’t know how to do that! and we have quite a few dilemmas here. let’s continue.

    however i didn’t quite get the ‘not being afraid’ thing, since it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to put my finger on the cause. who would actually scare the soon-to-be author? maybe the pencil you write with for you could easily injure yourself for such a non-profitable action like writing verses for which you have no guarantee to be read in the future.
    then it might be that the rubber won’t work in the exact time of getting re-inspired to urgently correct an expression and – since inspiration is so pretentious that it cannot wait but for a very short while and that while is determined by the time you need to get the notebook out of your purse and write – eventually witness the losing of your vital idea.
    And then, of course, it might be the future reader – whoever that could be – for turning all yellow with envy because he was not the one to have produced those words before you did! And there you go: you’ve got yourself an enemy just like that! He might even accuse you for stealing the idea from inside his brain even before it had been born and he might emphasise he could bring proof for that and put you into jail!

    So anyway, why write a poem in the first place? Shouldn’t we consider this much more seriously? getting into jail for such a trivial thing as poetry… uhhh I’m not sure it’s worth it. 🙂

    ps: Sam, please excuse and feel free to correct any mistakes that you might encounter.

    • Camix says:

      erata:
      , I think they are two essential things*

    • Camix says:

      green with envy**

    • sam says:

      Ha ha! You caught me. 🙂
      My mistake. I did not specify that the book is about how to READ poetry.

      Here are more details about the “Don’t be afraid” rule in the author’s words:

      “It is easy to be shy when confronting a poem. Poems can be the frightening older children at a party who make us want to cling to our mothers. But remember that poets are people and they have taken the courageous step of sharing their fears, loves, hopes and narratives with us in a rare and crafted form.

      They don’t mean to frighten us off, they long for us to read their works and to enjoy them.”

      I hope this clarifies a little.

      The same applies to the notebook rule: it is for noting your impressions, thoughts or any other things comming in your way while reading a poem.

      • Camix says:

        Ohh, I understand! I was just playing with words, I’m so sorry, it was not my intention to criticise anything.

        The moment when I feel scared is after the first reading of a poem.
        ‘does this mean what i think it means? that idea fits there with the other one… Did he think about something else?’ and eventually getting to ‘Does it mean anything, by the way?’.
        But anyhow it is a challenge not to run right away to mommy.

        I don’t need any notebook for writing impressions, I usually prefer not saving my thoughts about a poem, but the poem itself, I’d rather have the actual created words. Or a .doc. And that goes for favourite novel excerpts, blog articles and comments as well. I could say this is essential for me.

        And as for taking time, all previous mentioned stays true.

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