Two Cures for Love (Selected Poems) – Wendy Cope

I really must educate myself more on poetry. I think in my head somewhere I have decided that I am not clever enough to get it. That said when I went to an open day at The Reader Organisation a while back we all read poetry allowed and the realisation that ‘there is no right answer’ finally hit me after several decades of feeling like I was rather in the dark. However there are two poets I have always loved, as a child Brian Pattern (and I can still recite many of them) was the bees knees and now as an adult I am a huge, huge fan of Wendy Cope. I tend to dip in and out of her collections but sometimes, when I am a little low or out of sorts, I will pick them up and just devour the lot as I did with ‘Two Cures for Love’ one morning a week or so ago.

Faber & Faber, 2010, paperback, poetry, 112 pages, kindly sent by publisher

‘Two Cures for Love’ is a collection of selected works of Wendy Copes from 1979 to 2006 and so it isn’t a collection that has an exact narrative, I see it more as a ‘Best of So Far…’ kind of affair, though of course there has been the collection ‘Family Values’ since this. What these poems all have in common of course are Wendy Cope and her wonderful style. I think I love her poems so much because be they happy or sad, or indeed a mixture of the two, they are human and they are in my kind of language.

I don’t really go for over flowery prose in fiction and so it is no surprise I like my poetry to be similar; it helps me to connect to the words in front of me. I also rather like, and here I may sound a complete philistine but in for a penny in for a pound, poems that rhyme as I seem to find the patterns easier and the rhythm. Not all Cope’s poems do rhyme though yet because the poems are down to earth rather than airy fairy I find that I can cope with them. But what about the poems I can hear you asking; well before I talk about them further let’s have one that I love…

Loss

The day he moved out was terrible -
That evening she went through hell.
His absence wasn’t a problem
But the corkscrew had gone as well.

Isn’t that just brilliant? It combines the utter devastation of losing someone you love or being left and then in her wonderful way Cope makes light of it. Yet she can be just as heart breaking. I don’t want to include it because a) its too long and b) I think you should all be rushing off to read all of Cope’s poems, but ‘Tich Miller’ is just one of the saddest poems I think I have ever read. Every time I read it it just gets me. ‘Being Boring’ is another stunner as it celebrates the joys of the everyday, in fact I think that really sums up Cope over all, everyday emotions of all ranges are celebrated in her work. Time for another poem I think…

Valentine

My heart has made its mind up
And I’m afraid it’s you.
Whatever you’ve got lined up,
My heart has made its mind up
And if you can’t be signed up
This year, next year will do.
My heart has made its mind up
And I’m afraid it’s you.

I can’t really sum up a collection of poems, partly because with the selected works in ‘Two Cures for Love’ they are glimpses of an author at differing stages of her career and I would have to sum each one up and possibly look too deeply into them which might ruin the magic Cope weaves. There is also the fact that with poetry the reaction you have to it is very personal and very individual (yes, I know this is the case with fiction too but with poetry I feel it is stronger maybe deeper). All I can say is that I love Wendy Copes words and I would heartily recommend you read her if you haven’t already.

Wendy Cope is basically the poet I am using to slowly but surely shoe horn my way into poetry properly. Who else would you recommend?

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23 Comments

Filed under Faber & Faber, Poetry, Review, Wendy Cope

23 responses to “Two Cures for Love (Selected Poems) – Wendy Cope

  1. Like you, I didn’t think that I was clever enough to enjoy poetry, but when I read ‘Two Cures for Love’, I connected with it straight away. Wendy Cope’s work is not only amusing, but I also felt that it was a window into her life.

    The only other poem that I enjoy, is ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allan Poe for its dark atmosphere.

    • I love Wendy Cope. I must get my mitts on all of her stuff. I saw her read and she was incredible.

      I have always wanted to read The Raven as it is meant to be really spooky, but the fact it is prose has invariably put me off.

  2. Hooray! It makes me really sad when people think they aren’t ‘clever enough’ for poetry – the best poems do the work so that you don’t have to!

    Somebody like Dorothy Parker is good if you want light, dip-inable stuff similar to the shorter Cope ones (and collections often include her short stories which are great), but I also am a fanatical Elizabeth Bishop supporter, because when everybody else was writing self-indulgent gubbins in the 60s, she was having none of it. ‘Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance’ is a nice one to show how she conjures up the flavour of a place, ‘One Art’ is also brilliant and a bit more formal. If you do take a look, I’d be interested to know what you think!

    • I think there is a lot of snobbery about poetry and that also makes it all a little more isolating for the outsider, I have decided that as long as the poems work for me though who cares.

      I have always menat to read Dorothy Parker so I will have to give her a whirl, thank you for the reminder.

  3. I became immensely frustrated with the way poetry was taught to me at school. I had to endure several English teachers more-or-less insisting that every poem was some kind of puzzle to be solved, and that every poet was, with great malice of forethought, deliberately using difficult language to obscure some mundane point, and that once the reader had unlocked or “got” the meaning behind it, then, tadaaa, we’d solved the poem! I was pretty sure that this wasn’t the case (and, somewhat precociously, argued with several of my English teachers that a poem isn’t a word puzzle to be solved like something at the back of a newspaper). My over-laboured point being: I think the poor teaching of poetry in school is (mostly) responsible for people’s trepidation towards it.

    Great to see someone blogging about poetry though. I’ve done it a few times (to a very cold reception, it has to be said). I think the best way to acclimatise yourself to poetry is to read something like John Lennard’s ‘The Poetry Handbook’, or Derek Attridge’s ‘Poetic Rhythm’, which go into all kinds of fun, dorky detail about rhythm, scansion, form, layout, metre, prosody etc.

    Which poets would I recommend? Ummmm, I really like A.E. Housman, Philip Larkin, E. E. Cummings, Rainer Maria Rilke and Andrew Marvel.

    I also, like you, enjoy rhyming in poetry, especially when it’s playful, like in my favourite Larkin poem: http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/philip-larkin/aubade/

    T.

    • I completely agree with you about the teaching poetry Tom. I wasn’t in the same class as you was I? We seem to have had the same teacher hahaha.

      I liked that Larkin poem indeed, maybe I should try more of him. I always thought he was too clever for me. One click and I am proven wrong.

  4. Tanya

    I’d recommend dipping into Bloodaxe’s anthology Being Alive and/or its sequel Staying Alive, and seeing what you like. Both are eminently browsable.

  5. I couldn’t agree more w/ comment above re: how poetry was taught in schools. I came to class enjoying it and left class hating it. I don’t read a great deal of poetry but have always loved Robert Frost and Walt Whitman. Now I live in Australia and not USA I am discovering the ballads of Banjo Patterson about the land and the people. Yes all very old fashioned but like the stories they weave. Glad to see you are so honest about your feelings to poetry. Happy page turning. Pam

  6. Like you I love reading Wendy Cope poems. Her style and humour cheers me. You asked who else might be a good poet to read I have to say Jackie Kay is one of my very favourite poets and I heartily recommend seeing her perform her work. She is clever but also very funny to watch. She has her audience with her 100% whether it is practically crying with sad poetry or laughing their heads off with her wit and humour – Jackie Kay is fantastic.
    Similarly, but because of her national poetry status just now she seems all together very serious, Carol-Ann Duffy is another fantastic poet and manages to develop different genres and themes within her poetry, very clever but accessible poetry.
    I think a lot of people are either frightened that poetry is too difficult because of experiences of poetry at school or an awful lot of people simply switch off when it comes to poetry because they might have found their English teachers at school killed the joy out of poems because they have been studied and drained dry.
    However, it is worth exploring and enjoying different kinds of poetry in your own terms and have fun while you do it. ;-)K

    • Jackie Kay is another poet that indeed I must try. I have read quite a few of her books, though oddly not reviewed them on here, and enjoyed those all immensely so turning to her poems could be a wonderful idea.

  7. Mimannee

    I discovered Wendy Cope through work very recently and it really made my day when I read her poetry! I now have one of her poems on my wall at work as it makes me giggle, along with one by Jackie Kay, another of my favourites. I heard Jackie Kay reading some of her poems at a festival and her lovely warm Scottish accent made her performance very memorable for me. Hearing poetry read out loud is such a treat as it gives you time for the words to sink in a bit more than reading them off the page.
    I love Wendy’s poem ‘A vow’, as it is beautiful, honest and real..

    • I think hearing the poets really helps, after all really poems were meant to read a loud werent they? Plus the authors, having written them, get the pace and flow just right. Wendy Cope read some of hers with a wonderfully wry smile which added to the delight when I saw her.

  8. Mimannee

    I just realised that the person above me also posted about Jackie Kay – I should really read the other comments before posting!

  9. Mary Oliver, Kathleen Jamie and Richard Price…

  10. Bink Owen

    Would have to agree with the aforementioned commentator who points you in Philip Larkin’s direction. “Toads,” “This be the Verse,” “Aubade,” “I Remember, I Remember,” “The Mower”–love ‘em. John Updike is clever and fun, so is Ogden Nash and the wonderful Billy Collins. So many modern poets don’t or won’t use humor in their work but I feel it a plus. You just have to root them out and when you do, the payoff is fantastic. Good hunting.

    • I had no idea that John Updike wrote poetry, how interesting. I will have to look some of those up. I think I prefer humour in my poetry, maybe that is part of the problem.

  11. melindasmith

    As others have said in the comments, try Larkin and Billy Collins. AE Stallings and Joshua Mehigan (US) and Glenn Colquhoun and Elizabeth Smither (NZ) are also great if you like accessible, engaging poetry that you will actually get something out of. And oddly enough Clive James, the ugliest man on television, is a wonderful poet – I love his poem Windows is Shutting Down (and so do my kids !) Good luck on your poetical journey of exploration !

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