A couple of days back, I fell into conversation with a jazz musician. We talked about jazz, his teaching of music and the jazz performance I had recently attended at my local pub. On me mentioning that I am a poet, my companion said that he had recently been given a copy of Stephen Fry’s “The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B003V4AT1C/, and that he had just started to compose poetry.
I have not read Fry’s “The Ode Less Travelled”, consequently I’m unable to comment on the book. I did, however say to my companion that whilst books on poetic craft may, in some instances, be helpful, its crucial to read as much poetry (of all kinds) as possible to enable the development of one’s own unique style. Such reading will bring one into contact with poetry which is not to your taste, however this is, nonetheless useful in honing the poets ability to compose verse.
I am not dismissing works on poetic craft. Indeed I have on my shelves “The Poet’s Voice and Craft”, which consists of a series of lectures by famous poets explaining how they go about writing poetry, and other aspects of poetic craft, (https://www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9781857540208). Whilst I’d have no hesitation in recommending this book, in my opinion reading Keats, Housman, Blake, Larkin, Auden and a myriad other poets will prove of more benefit than pouring over numerous tomes on poetic craft.
Of course there is a danger that by reading other poets, we come to replicate them. One must always be wary of falling into the trap of (either consciously or unconsciously) trying to outWordsworth Wordsworth, or outBlake Blake, but by reading other poets and absorbing the poetic tradition, one learns, over time to develop one’s own unique voice.
I have been told that a number of my poems remind readers of Emily Dickinson, Larkin and a number of other poets. I have never (consciously) attempted to write in the style of any poet, but take such comments as compliments. We build on the poetic tradition. We can, of course augment it but, ultimately we are all part of the great cultural heritage that has gone before.
As ever, your comments are most welcome.