Poetry? On Savidge Reads? Yes, you well might be shocked. I have to admit I am often left utterly bemused by poetry. I have never really got it. I’ve always found it a little pretentious. (Did I just hear someone shout ‘heathen’ somewhere in the blogosphere? Ha.) This has all changed thanks to Wendy Cope and her latest collection ‘Family Values’. I think I have finally found a poet that I get the gist of and one who, in this collection alone, has made me laugh out loud and also made me want to cry. Yes, I seem to have found some poetry I connect with.
It’s very difficult to review a collection of poems without wanting to simply include every single one of them to make it easier on yourself, it’s even harder if a) you have never done it before and b) until recently you weren’t really a big fan of the form. Wendy Cope’s latest collection of 56 poems ‘Family Values’ is one that really runs the spectrum of the everyday things that happen in human life. From the turbulence of childhood to both the fear and acceptance of death this collection spans a whole host of human emotions.
The start of the collection focuses on Christmas, one of the more delightful yet equally trying times of year. In the four poems that cover this period Cope manages to completely convey the joy and the annoyance that come with that time period. I found myself thinking ‘phew, someone else has that feeling of happiness and slight nostalgic melancholy at that time of year too’. From the start I felt I was on the same page (no pun intended) as Cope and this was before we had even started on the poems of love and loss, some of which I found so beautiful and touching I admit I got a little teary. Try reading the below and not feeling something.
The birds are singing loudly overhead,
As if to celebrate the April weather.
I want to stay in this lovely world forever
And be with, my love, and share your bed.
I don’t believe I will see you when we’re dead.
I don’t believe we’ll meet and be together.
The birds are singing loudly overhead.
I want to stay in this lovely world forever.
What I really loved about Cope’s collection, apart from the fact it ‘got me’ so much, was the sense of humour in it. As a child my Mum (the English teacher) read me Brian Pattern’s ‘Gargling With Jelly’ which would reduced me to hysterics. Almost two decades on Wendy Cope is doing the same on a whole host of things from love to debating whatever happened to the tomato shaped ketchup dispensers in motorway service station fast food restaurants as she does in ‘At Stafford Services’. I even found myself laughing bizarrely at subjects such as death and even the thoughts of our own funerals.
I hope I can trust you, friends, not to use our relationship
As an excuse for an unsolicited ego trip.
I have seen enough of them at funerals and they make
At this one, though deceased, I aim to be the boss.
If you are asked to talk about me for five minutes, please
do not go on for eight.
There is a strict timetable at the crematorium and nobody
wants to be late.
If invited to read a poem, just read the bloody poem.
To sing a song, just sing it, as suggested,
And don’t say anything. Though I will not be there,
Glancing pointedly at my watch and fixing the speaker
with a malevolent stare,
Remember that this was how I always reacted
When I felt that anybody’s speech, sermon or poetry reading
was becoming to protracted.
Yes, I was impatient and intolerant, and not always polite
And if there aren’t many people at my funeral, it will probably
serve me right.
I really loved this collection. I should say at this juncture that it was actually seeing Wendy Cope reading her own poems in Cambridge that made it all so accessible and finally broke me into poetry again. I could here her voice and see her arched eyebrow and wry smile as I read through so that added a certain something. Regardless of that though, she didn’t read the whole book, I can genuinely say that these poems would have touched me anyway if I had seen them. A collection of poems that can make you laugh, cry and resonate with you just so is a hard thing to find, but find one I have. Thank you Wendy Cope! 9/10
So there you are, I am somewhat converted. I have to admit that after the success with Wendy Cope (and I have another of her collections I am going to save for the future) I have since read a whole novel written in poetry. I will be reporting back on that soon. Which poet really resonates with you and why? Who would you recommend I go and try next?