Sunday, October 10, 2004

Serious Concerns ~ Wendy Cope

I'm posting this August 13 entry from my book journal because I want something fun. I spent the weekend at home in Suburban Wasteland with my parents, which would have been enjoyable if it wasn't for the constant presence of Shithead. He just won't go fucking away. And this week is Coming Out Week, and I may end up writing a Very Special Post, and I have mixed feelings about it. So. Wendy Cope it is.

I really want to steal this book. I really don't think the public library appreciates it. It's all battered and faded and it's only a matter of time before the spine breaks and the pages fall out. And I can't help feeling it's destiny. Wendy Cope and I were meant for each other. She's that rare beast, a poet with a sense of humor. Serious Concerns is, on the one hand, not very serious at all. It's barely 90 pages of witty light verse about dating, drinking, just ordinary 9-5 life, with a large measure of literary satire.

"An Unusual Cat Poem"
My cat is dead.
But I have decided not to make a big
tragedy out of it.

She writes about holiday angst,

Bloody Christmas, here again.
Let us raise a loving cup.
Peace on earth, goodwill to men,
And let them do the washing-up.

royalty statements and publishers, recycling beer bottles, "Men and Their Boring Arguments," the existential musings of her teddy bear,

My arms will not bend--
Sometimes life is a bore.

and re-imagines Hamlet as a cricket match. She makes me laugh out loud, something I thought only Ogden Nash could do.

"Variation on a Lennon and McCarthy Song"
Love, love, love,
Love, love, love,
Love, love, love,
Dooby do dooby doo,
All you need is love,
Dooby dooby doo,
All you need is love,
Dooby dooby doo,
All you need is love, love
Or, failing that, alcohol.

It's like the poetry Bridget Jones would write if she weren't "verbally incontinent." The poem "Serious Concerns" is answer to critics who say she's too light-hearted

Now should I work at being less witty? Or more pretentious?
Or both?

And the collection ends with a few quiet poems reflecting on her sister and grandmother. She skewers the sexist literary establishment in "Tumps" ("typically useless male poets") and "Poem Composed in Santa Barbara":

The poets talk. They talk a lot.
They talk of T.S. Eliot.
One is anti. One is pro.
How hard they think! How much they know!
They're happy. A cicada sings.
We women talk of other things.

So on the other hand her poetry, which is about these "other things", unimportant or silly, is serious as well. My favorite is "The Orange":

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave
They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.
The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

It's about nothing particularly earth-shattering or typically poetic, just simple and straight-forward and says what it means to say. "Fun" and "serious" are not mutually exclusive terms in Cope's work, like they are in so much "real" poetry. I like her. She seems like someone you would like to have a drink with and just hang out.
I'm sorely tempted to just not give it back. It's just one little book. They won't miss it, right?

I did give it back. And by the way, Ms. Cope if you--or your publishers--are reading this, please don't sue me. I know I'm probably violating all sorts of copyright by quoting your stuff in full, but how can I not? Think of it as free advertising. Besides, I haven't got anything but a bunch of books anyway. Oh, and I've decided to read The Turn of the Screw after all.


Post a Comment

<< Home