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on 19 September 2001
I think what often puts one off reading poetry is the sense that it is too grand - too concerned with the fundamentals of the universe to be of much relevance to the ordinary everyday person. Wendy Cope however has always managed to relate the two in a very simple and effective way. Her humour is always refreshing and never misplaced. She may never be regarded by the establishment in the same way as the Hughes', Wordworths' and Byrons' of this world are, but I will always see her as being one of the best poets I have personally ever encountered.
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on 19 July 2001
These poems cover a range of subjects from lost socks through pedigree pigs to fireworks. She uses formal styles such as triolets and villanelles as well as free verse to great effect. She makes seem effortless what is no doubt effortful to achieve.
Also included is a long poem, the Teacher's tale, a modern day tale in the style of Chaucer.
The best of these poems make you think - yes. It is like that, isn't it.
A worthy successor to Taking Cocoa with Kingsley Amis and an example to point at and say that not all good poems need to be about death or nature.
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on 6 August 2001
Unless you are very highbrow, this accessible collection of poems is waiting to entertain you. It is a mixture of discipline - villanelle, haiku, ballad - and free verse. Such is the poet's ability to diversify in subject and form retaining the humour.
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on 1 June 2001
Wendy Cope burst onto the poetry scene with 'Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis' - a collection of 'humorous' poems which saw her work considered 'lightweight' (a theme touched on in "A poem on the theme of humour"). However, Cope has an observant and occasionally acerbic voice which pinpoints an issue, and touches the soul. This new collection reveals a mellower poet, still writing poems about love and relationships, but finding pleasure in the natural world too - there's even a series of short verses about "Traditional Prize County Pigs"! A particular favourite is the touching "On a train" - which should strike a chord with anyone who's ever loved. The second part of this volume is a longer work entitled "The Teacher's Tale". This opens our eyes to a different views of a commonplace world. Don't be mislead by the rhymes,humour and occasional brevity of the verses. These poems are not shrouded in semiotics, post-modernism or other 'literary-speak'. These are beautifully crafted and accessible - genius at work!
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on 4 April 2015
Deceptively simple but wryly observant writing. Wonderful.
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on 2 January 2002
Not reading much of Cope's work prior to this, I feared most if not all her writing to be heavily feministic. Quite the contrary. Whereas some pieces do instill feminist approaches, this is not without relevance or reason. I can say confidentally, "If I Don't Know" is a modern classic collection of inspired writings, throwing up the whole range of emotions that poets should. All the poems and verses found here are superbly crafted and mastered (even "Fireworks Poems" on page 10!) but the true gems are "The Christmas Life", "Being Boring", "Sonnet of 68", "Traditional Prize County Pigs", "An Ending", and the title poem. A point of call is "A Teacher's Tale" which is Cope's finale for this collection. It would be interesting to find out whether Cope decided on the content order of this collection with "A Teacher's Tale" acting almost as an appendix, or whether the decision was made by the publisher. Either way, both have got it right, and Cope's "If I Don't Know" is a great example of how poetry should be written, balanced and produced. It is a rare lesson in style, composition and stanzas that leave the reader both gasping and in total thought. Like her male counterpart genius, Roger McGough, Wendy Cope can claim to be the best and most popular of poets today and rightly so. Ironically both Poets appeared together earlier in 2001 as guests on the BBC Radio 4's "Fine Lines." Fortuitious timing perhaps?
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on 14 April 2016
Fast and Simple Servive all I wanted, many thanks
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on 7 January 2002
this latest collection is typical of cope's work. a pretty good use of humor, rhymes that sometimes are singsongy, and a whole host of villanelles. the real surprise is the long poem that concludes the volume, 'the teacher's tale'. written in couplets, it is a semi-serious poem that is well-done. some of the rhymes are predictable, but overall, it's a pretty good poem.
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on 24 June 2013
This is a lady who knows how to write poems that are accessible, entertaining and have something to say. She can punch a good deal harder than some reviewers would have you believe.
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on 17 May 2013
Wendy Cope has a wonderful sense of humour and I defy anyone not to identify with some of the situations she is writing about.
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