The Ode Less Traveled

Unhappy with that great syllabic mess
of stutterings and halts that I call prose,
I've found this book just off the press
that I most need: self-help for me and those
like me who want to sing but only caw
in raucous tones disordered and sans law.

A 12-step plan to bardhood. First, step one:
sound out the samples, tap your feet
to Shakespeare, Heaney, Dickinson and Donne,
until you're sure you've caught the beat:
pentametrically ordered five-by-five,
those iambs and those trochees come alive!

Then pen in hand, begin to write some word
that's stressed on second stroke; you can forget
if it makes sense, an iamb even if absurd
sounds good in the right place. And yet,

the lesson that you learn is truly sad:
All poetry, or most I've ever read,
consists of this: the banal thought well said.
It sounds good sometimes even when it's bad.

(To try it on your own, see Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, Gotham Books, 2005.)

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