Tag Archives: Wendy Cope

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

July’s Incomings…

I decided that after seeing all of your thoughts and responses on incoming posts, and discovering that you like them, I would carry on doing them monthly. However what has changed is the way I deal with books that have arrived. Id I have asked for them then they go straight on a special part of the TBR (which is getting a big update and cull this week), or they get read within a few days. If they are for The Green Carnation then they live with all the other (and it’s a vast amount) of submissions. As for the unsolicited ones… well… I decided instead of just piling them all up until then end of the month I would try and do ‘instant elimination’. So now I try and dip in and read a few pages here and there in the book, after reading the blurb, and decide if it’s a book for me, my Mum, Granny Savidge Reads or the charity shop. So far the system is working and so there are fewer books in this month’s incomings, let’s take a look at them.

First up the paperbacks…

  • August by Bernard Beckett – I saw this on The First Tuesday Book Club as Jennifer Byrne recommended it and it sounded intriguing, plus I loved the upside down title. When I saw I could bagsy it from We Love This Book HQ I did… obviously to review for them (and for you).
  • The Legacy by Kristen Tranter – unsolicited copy, this is a ‘9/11’ book I believe and whilst I am not sure how I feel about those, this one sounds like it might be from an angle you wouldn’t expect.
  • The Player’s Curse by Brian Thompson – unsolicited copy (but a very me one), this has reminded me I need to read the first in this series still, so I will be digging that out. I think this might be the third and I can’t read out of sync so will have to get the others if I like the first.
  •  Your Presence Is Requested At Suvanto by Maile Chapman – unsolicited copy, a tale set in a hospital deep in a wood, how can I not want to read this one?
  • Conference at Cold Comfort Farm/Westwood by Stella Gibbons – unsolicited copies, now I haven’t read Cold Comfort Farm yet so this is a timely reminder to, in fact these books set me off wondering if I am reading too much contemporary modern fiction currently.
  • The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman – I said yes to this one, not because I had read his previous novel, but because it was a novella and also one that sounded like a fairytale.
  • Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck – I asked for this one because I saw it somewhere and it sounded really spooky, so I cheekily asked when the publishers were sending me something else.
  • Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong – unsolicited copy, not sure why I fancied this one now, but I did.
  • No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod – unsolicited copy, this won awards in 1999 I believe, but seems to have been reissued. I want to know more.
  • Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam – unsolicited copy, I fancied this because of the cover (shameless) but sadly you can’t see how quirky it is.
  • Two Cures for Love by Wendy Cope – Cope was the cure for my poetry fears, I have this collection of Selected Poems awaiting me.
  • A Mind To Murder/Unnatural Causes by P.D. James – after having met her and then done an article about her I want to read more of her. I also got her ‘Talking About Detective Fiction’ which I couldn’t find to photograph. Oops.

The Hardbacks…

  • Everything That Began After by Simon Van Booy – this nearly went off to my Mum, as it’s set in Greece and she loves the country as she teaches classics, however I then looked him up and thought ‘I want to read this first’, I have and thoughts coming soon.
  • Bed by David Whitehouse – sounds like a really, really interesting and quirky debut novel about a bedridden boy.
  • East of the West by Miroslav Penkov – unsolicited copy, which came with a lovely hand written note from the publicist saying just why she loved it, you can’t not try a book when a publicist does that.
  • Rivers of London/Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch – I asked for these as I keep seeing them everywhere and when I read the blurbs I thought they sounded like a lot of fun, and a fun escapist read is what you need now and again.
  • Solace by Belinda McKenn – unsolicited copy, I am glad this turned up, there is a huge buzz about this book building so I want to read it before it all starts getting over hyped. Watch this space.
  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher – unsolicited copy, this sounds like a brilliant young adult novel and one I am going to read before passing onto my sister.
  • Pure by Andrew Miller – I resisted this book until I heard it was about cemeteries and I have a strange fascination with them, I do miss tour guiding at Highgate so much.
  • The Ascent of Isaac Steward by Mike French – I am trying to say yes to more independent publishers, I feel its something I am missing so am going to give this a whirl.
  • The Cold Eye of Heaven by Christine Dwyer Hickey – unsolicited copy, heard lots of praise about her last novel, and this one seems short-ish, so why not?
  • Jubilate by Michael Arditti – I read Arditti many years ago and it was quite an impressionable read for me in my late teens so I wanted to check in on him again with his latest.
  • The Picture Book by Jo Baker – Again this was all thanks to the publicist and the passion for the book in an email, I couldn’t say no.
  • You by Joanna Briscoe – I liked Joanna Briscoe’s debut Sleep With Me which I read before I blogged, I think, and it was a darkly delicious unnerving book. This one sounds very good indeed and also like it might have some interesting twists, its next to read.

Now before I go onto what I bought for myself I wanted to share two proof copies I got that are so simplistically stunning I couldn’t not show you…

I know nothing of Kevin Wilson, though I think ‘The Family Fang’ is a brilliant title, and have enjoyed a previous Ellen Feldman novel. But aren’t these so nice to look at? There’s no cover picture to judge, just the title, the author and the blurb. I really like it.

So what did I buy myself this month? Well there were the car boot bargain books but until Friday nothing else. I had to hunt out a copy of ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ by Walter Tevis for a project you will be hearing more about later today. I then accidentally walked into Fopp and it gained three new friends because they were only £1 each (some random one day offer)…

  • Easter Parade by Richard Yates – I was trying to remember which blogger specifically made me want to read this but then realised there was a whole host of them.
  • The Quarry by Damon Galgut – we long listed his ‘In A Strange Room’ for The Green Carnation Prize last year and I never reviewed it, which was silly, I liked it and wanted to try more. This isn’t his most famous by any stretch but it starts with a random murder that gets out of hand and I thought sounded worth a try. I have already polished it off.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – an utterly random purchase where I thought ‘oh I will risk it’. I loved the title, the cover and the blurb, simple as that.

So what do you think of this month selection? Any you would recommend I race to read or would like me to read soonest? Also, what do you think of my new filtering regime for books. Do you have any system in place that you could recommend?

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Filed under Book Thoughts

Family Values – Wendy Cope

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.

Faber & Faber; 2011; hardback; poetry; sent by publisher

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.

April

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.

My Funeral

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
       me cross.
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.
       If requested
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?

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Filed under Books of 2011, Faber & Faber, Poetry, Review, Wendy Cope