Wendy Cope

Belper market place.
The Salvation Army hall.
Close-up of the poem.

“Flowers” by Wendy Cope has been put on the wall of the former Salvation Army hall, now No. 28, in Belper’s Market Square – permission kindly granted by Wendy Cope. This pretty plaque was made by Leander Architectural Services of Doveholes, Derbyshire. Beth attended a keep-fit class in the Salvation Army hall. No. 28 is a community arts centre, a venue for craft fairs and refreshments during Belper’s popular Farmers Markets as well as a venue for music and drama during Belper’s Arts Festival and comedy nights and private parties throughout the year.

Belper Market Place has been part of Belper and Milford Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) – nationally recognised after it received two awards at the 2007 Royal Town Planning Institute’s ‘East Midlands Planning Awards’.

Wendy Cope

Another of Beth’s favourite poets, Wendy Cope was born in Erith, Kent in 1945 and read History at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She trained as a teacher at Westminster College of Education, Oxford, and taught in primary schools in London (1967-81 and 1984-6). She became Arts and Reviews editor for Contact, the Inner London Education Authority magazine, and continued to teach part-time, before becoming a freelance writer in 1986. She was television critic for T he Spectator magazine until 1990. Her poetry collections include Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (1986), Serious Concerns (1992) and If I Don’t Know (2001), which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award. Wendy Cope is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in Winchester, England. In 1998 she was the listeners’ choice in a BBC Radio 4 poll to succeed Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate.

Critical Perspective

Wendy Cope is a classic English humorist, updated to take account of changing times, but in her deflationary humour, bathos, and rueful wisdom she is absolutely the classic article. The poets she most resembles are John Betjeman and Philip Larkin. She has written surprisingly little for such a successful poet, just three books in the last 16 years, but, like Larkin, she has made this sparse output tell. Wendy Cope’s second book was called Serious Concerns (1992), and the title highlights the fact that some of her work has always been meditative and serious rather than funny. Her latest book, If I Don’t Know (2001) shows a development in subject matter if not style. Domestic contentment has replaced angst about men as the prevailing mood. The most characteristic poem is ‘Being Boring’, in which the ancient Chinese curse, ‘May you live in interesting times’, sets up a poem in which a lack of excitement is given a very positive spin

(Thanks to Glen Mulliner for notes on Wendy Cope.)

This poem comes from ‘Serious Concerns’ by Wendy Cope, published by Faber & Faber, and is reproduced by kind permission of the poet.