The World's Two Smallest Humans Paperback – 5 Jul 2012
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'This is a beautiful, arresting, sympathetic collection... There is something about the control, the high resolution, that gives this book its special, contradictory emotional mixture: it is elegiac and buoyant... The wonder of these poems is that although they could hardly be more personal childhood; the end of an affair; a sequence on IVF treatment there is no self-indulgence and no sense, for the reader, of being an intruder.' --Kate Kellaway, Observer
'Copus's ample stanzas give us a world as intensely realised as a novel, in which life itself seems to be taking place... What her poems of time and change propose runs counter to contemporary habits: hope, they say, is worth the candle, and this quietly powerful, deeply felt book ends with an affirmative for the future: 'I give myself over, shell and shelter, / child, my own.'' --Sean O'Brien, Sunday Times
'A master poet at work. With a characterful blend of the heart-felt and the experimental, delivered in language that is never less than pin-sharp, it is one of the most striking volumes of the year.' --Matthew Richardson, The Spectator
With The World's Two Smallest Humans, Julia Copus brings an unforgettable and thrilling new voice to the Faber poetry list.See all Product description
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Subjects include love relationships, not least in the final sequence about the poets experience of IVF treatment which looks at the effect of this on all protagonists the couple, medical interventions at the conception and the welcome of the resulting child. These have a poignancy and dignity in them that perhaps seem unlikely when one considers some of procedures in the treatment room.
That said, all these poems are very rooted in the human world, for example, in a poem that describes a past lover, or another describing a sixty year old man on a bus and his life remembering the time of the death of his mother. This poem, "Raymond at 60," consists of two stanzas on facing pages. It's only after reading this that one realizes the poem is a palindrome, where the second stanza has the same lines of the first in reverse. This attests to the virtuosity of the poet's control of her words, because it was not something I noticed until I had read the poem' and then moved on a few pages.
There are also poems that display a good knowledge of the arts, not least a sequence about a composer (not the same story as in the play Amadeus!) living and a reworking of a poem by Ovid. However, perhaps my favorite poem of this collection, and the one for me that is worth the price of the books alone is one called "Heronkind." This is about a slender heron's longing for reaching out to catch a fish. Copus concludes:
How much less complex
life would be
without this feverish
the wanter and the wanted,
though the truth of it is
that without fish
all heronkind would
This poem form me has a subtle music and states, with simplicity, a profound truth in a way that cannot be bettered.
This didn't win the TS Eliot Prize in the end. But we're all winners with poetry of this quality. Thank you, Julia.