Eve of NaPoWriMo. Poetry exercises done: 0. Ah, yes, the cruelest month, indeed.
My favorite book on writing poetry came from an unexpected source. I’ve been a fan of Stephen Fry since he and Hugh Laurie did their sketch comedy show on BBC and can’t read P.G. Wodehouse without his voice as Jeeves. But when I picked up a book called “The Ode Less Traveled,” I wasn’t linking the author’s name with either of those. Stephen Fry. Yes, it sounded a tad familiar but…Well, gosh dang it (as Rich Hall might say on QI, the Stephen Fry quiz show that I’m so hooked on as to not accomplish anything in my break time), the author is indeed that Stephen Fry. And I can hear his voice once again on every page.
“Ode” is not just a book about poetry or writing poetry but an exhortation to write poetry and play with poetic form–with “poetics,” in fact, the figures of speech, rhymes, rhythms. His exercises prod you to just put words on paper: but words in order, words that may rhyme or not, words that fit into the gallop of tetrameter or the Victorian flow of pentameter. And if they’re junk, well, so what. They’re your junk.
So…in that spirit. A short bit of iambic pentameter to prepare for April 1 and “a poem a day.”
The practice must begin with lines of stress
Pentameter must come before the rhyme
Let beats of rhythm pound within the breast
The planning out to come before the crime.