If taking the road less traveled doesn’t mean what we’ve all thought it meant, then I don’t know of a better example of romanticization and the disappointment felt from high expectations. Perhaps avoiding this kind of disappointment is what author David Orr wants to share with us in his excerpt about dismantling poetic expectations and stereotypes.
“You learn what’s going on in poetry by reading carefully and devotedly, questioning your own assumptions, and sticking with things even when you’re confused or nervous.” — David Orr
Orr praises Stephen Fry — writer and creator of all sorts (and apparently a funny guy) — as upholding the true virtues of what it means to be a poet, to read poetry, and to write poetry. It just so happens that Fry’s book The Ode Less Travelled coincidentally sounds like Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” AND the topic of David Orr’s opinion piece on the Paris Review (about said Frost poem). The point of Orr’s praise for Fry’s book is that it’s effective at showing readers how to have fun with poetry. What I stem from Orr’s praise of Fry and his book is Orr’s unabashed admiration for the man’s ability to blend humor with traditional poetic topics, like form. It’s no surprise that this book is highly recommended by Orr for those who want to know more about the form of poetry “but who [don’t] have an obsessive assistant professor living next door.”
So far in Signature’s The Writer’s Guide to Poetry, we’ve encountered some pretty stellar advice from poets and writers with a variety of skills, talents, and advice. This excerpt by David Orr is one of two throughout the book; yet, the advice given isn’t advice that David Orr gives to the reader — it’s advice cloaked with Stephen Fry all over it. While Fry may be a great writer, I would have preferred Orr’s advice — his personal advice — about overcoming expectations and assumptions of poetry (something more along the lines of his Paris Review opinion piece) rather than an advertisement for Fry’s book. Basically, Orr’s advice to us was to read Fry’s book. Did I mention that Stephen Fry has a book about poetry? Perhaps it should be read. Compared to the rest of the advice from Signature’s The Writer’s Guide to Poetry (mostly good, some ok, one outright no — read which one was a no), this excerpt titled “School of Verse” from Orr’s book You, Too, Could Write A Poem, was the weakest. I was disappointed.
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