9780571139774 / 0571139779

Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis


Publisher:Faber and Faber



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About the book:

Wendy Cope is very clever. She's good at taking much of what poetry holds dear and pricking its balloon. Her humour is an acquired taste and one short poem from "Strugnell's Haiku" sets the tone of this volume, first published in 1986, to great popular acclaim. "The leaves have fallen / And the snow has fallen and / Soon my hair also ..." a perfect haiku in form and perfectly ridiculous. This is her raison d'etre, to highlight the absurd in love, sex, courtship and in the sometimes stuffy, self-righteous literary poetry world. The title poem "Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis" was inspired by a dream apparently and the short four-line verse tells us no more. "Some kind of record seemed vital. / I knew it wouldn't be much of a poem / But I love the title." She tantalises but always stops short of deeper meaning. She mocks the rather pompous task of the Poet Laureate with her "All Purpose Poem for State Occasions": "The nation rejoices or mourns / As this happy or sombre day dawns." She slips into the bizarre persona of a policeman assigned to patrol the unconscious of Ted Hughes and parodies early reading books in an a-b a-b rhyme about an adulterous milkman: "Go Peter! Go Jane! Come milkman, come!" Her nursery rhymes in the style of Wordsworth ("Baa Baa Black Sheep") and T.S. Eliot ("Hickory Dickory Dock") are hilarious. It comes as quite a shock to come upon several serious poems, such as "On Finding an Old Photograph" in which she muses on her father before her birth and "all his sadness / and the things I didn't give him." The narrator of "Tich Miller" is bullied in school. "They usually chose me, the lesser dud / and she lolloped, unselected / to the back of the other team." There is little jauntiness in "At 3 a.m." in which the narrator imagines someone sleeping somewhere else with a woman next to him, crying quietly.

Most of Cope's poems confirm popular notions of what poetry should be--rhyming, accessible and direct. In "Rondeau Redouble", she's back laughing as though the hurt never happened at all. "There are so many kinds of awful men /One can't avoid them all. She often said / She'd never make the same mistake again: She always made a new mistake instead." --Cherry Smyth

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