Most poets agree that happiness is harder to put into words than sorrow; while sadness lends gravitas, joy can risk sentimentality and mawkishness. Seeking to prove this need not be the case, popular poet Wendy Cope assembled poems over 10 years that made her smile, putting a "H" in the margin next to them. The result is Heaven on Earth: 101 Happy Poems
, a wonderfully disparate collection that is guaranteed to chase away the blues. While love is a common theme, Cope allows it to roam free and gloriously wild. There is the unrivalled 17th century "To My Dear and Loving Husband" by Anne Bradstreet, as well as the self-loving "Poems of Solitary Delights" by Tachibena Akemi:
What a delight it is
When a guest you cannot stand
Arrives, then says to you
'I'm afraid I can't stay long....
Nina Cassian's "Intimacy" will convince you that a cuppa of "pure, burning amber" is all you need. There is nervy anticipation of the gay lover in Thom Gunn and Walt Whitman's entries:
We savour the approaching delight
of things we know yet are fresh always.
Sweet things. Sweet Things.
The daily routine of conjugality is also covered, like Sainsburys and cheese and onion rolls, made divine by UA Fanthorpe in "7301"--the number of days she's counted with her lover. While you might expect a happy poem from Carol Ann Duffy, who writes about her sleeping daughter, it's a surprise to discover an exuberant Sylvia Plath in "You're", written for her baby:
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.
There's plenty of non-filial pleasure in drunkenness, rotundity, dancing, music, contemplation and the wonder of rain too. Les Murray excels in his love poem to his "Shower": "this good blast of trance / arriving as shock...". Eighth-century poet, Po Chui-i learns to celebrate his baldness, while Elaine Feinstein finds "Getting Older" much less terrifying than she imagined. This is a volume that is, as Larkin says in "For Sidney Bechet", "an enormous yes ... scattering long-haired grief and scored pity". It "bashes out praises", to as Czeslaw Milosz argues, "glorify things just because they are". Cherry Smyth
About the Author
Wendy Cope was born in Erith, Kent. After university she worked for fifteen years as a primary-school teacher in London. Her first collection of poems, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis
, was published in 1986. In 1987 she received a Cholmondeley Award for poetry and in 1995 the American Academy of Arts and Letters Michael Braude Award for light verse. Two Cures for Love: Selected Poems 1979-2006
was published in 2008.