Written by

Alasdair (}11137

A passionate account of Scotland ’5 claim to self-government.

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The issue that continues after the election.

Available from all good bookshops

Canongate Press 14 Frederick Street Edinburgh EH2 ZHB

c p i n g with

c riti c i s m Philip Parr talks to the popularly prickly poet Wendy Cope.

Plenty ol‘poetically-inclined ()xbridge graduates have tried and failed to carve their niche in the literary world. St llilda‘s alumnus Wendy ('ope. who published live or six limited editions before being picked up by Faber and selling Jll.(l(l(lcopies ol her first anthology. .lluking (‘omu For Kings/(fly Arms. is one of the few who has undeniably succeeded. But there is an obstacle blocking her path to becoming the next Stevie or Sylvia.

It could best be described as a chip or more accurately. a platel'ul of chips on her shoulder. As a jobbing poet. ('ope relies on commissions to keep the bank balance healthy between anthologies (her latest. Serious ( 'mu'erns'. comes six years alter .llukiug ('omu) and yet the whole concept of commissions irritates her to the extent that when she does accept them. the results are often unprintable. ‘l‘ve had two newspapers wanting me to write poems for the general election campaign and I said. “no chance.” she says. ‘I get so many people ringing me up. asking me to churn out poems to order and so included in the new book are one or two bloody-minded responses. where I‘ve said “Yeah. ()K” but then written something totally unsuitable.‘

But this bolshie attitude goes beyond a buzzing telephone at election time and (her other pet hate) Christmas. Much other work criticises the very milieu she inhabits - the poetry corners ol’cal'e-society London and the men (never women) who wax doggercl within thctn. "l‘here are actually lots of poets I respect.‘ she claims. 'but I heard someone the other day say that poetry was more important than bread. and that isn’t true. You have

to keep a sense of proportion. And sometimes I lind it disgusting when this middle-class lobby demands large sums ol taxpayers’ money. When you look at the real hardship there is. is it more important to spend money on the arts than to spend it on the .\'l l8 or hostels for the homeless."

(‘ope's disgtrst with men is less wholehearted: there are plenty of unequivocal love poetns in Serious (mu-ems. but cynicism always rears its head in the end. ‘()ne person's cynicism is another person’s

‘I used to have boring arguments when I was younger but I grew out of it- most men neverdofi

realism.’ she counters. ‘I don‘t think it‘s cynical. it's the way I see things. Ill thought I was cynical then I would have to work harder to tell the truth. The truth about men is that they have this great desire to be taken seriously. and while I think of myself as a serious writer. I don't have a big thing about proving it. It was good that I started allowing my sense of humour into my poems because that’s part of me. There are very few poets who don't have a sense of humour. but a lot of them keep it out of their work because they‘re afraid of being put down as

light versiliers. I just refuse to worry

Wendy Cope

about that. that's a male thing. like men and their boring arguments [the title ol‘one ol'(‘ope's funniest poems]. I used to have boring arguments when l was younger but I grew out of it most men never do.‘ Serious ('mu'ernx is published by I’uher u! [13. 9‘) (/1 h) mu! [4. W (p b).

As Sweet

It‘s all because we’re so alike Twin souls, we two.

We smile at the expression, yes, And know it’s true.

I told the shrink. He gave our love A different name.

But he can call it what he likes It’s still the same.

I long to see you, hear your voice, My narcissistic object-chorce.


The day he moved out was terrible That evening she went through hell. His absence wasn’t a problem

But the corkscrew was gone as well.

A Christmas Poem

At Christmas little children sing and merry bells jingle

The cold winter air makes our hands and faces tingle

And happy families go to church and cheerily they mingle

And the whole business is unbelievably dreadful, if you’re single.


Get on down! Complete guide to week one of Mayfest. Get down under! Nick Cave, the bad seed from the land of ()1. Down in your Burroughs! (.‘ronenberg does Naked Lunch.

AN!) AS II" Tle1 T ll’ASN'T ENOUGH . . . all the gen on Strathblair. k. d. lang. EMF. Cher. The Levellers. Robert Lepage's Polygraph. Cuttin" A Rug revival and loads more.

54 The List 10— 23 April 1992