Wendy Cope is one of those poets of whom I have an awareness but have never actually studied any of her work in depth. Perhaps this is because she is not renowned as a “serious” poet in terms of tackling serious subject matter or being particularly high brow.
However, her work is good. I’m not one for long poems and the longest one that you will find within the pages of Serious Concerns is a couple of pages long in big type. I am also a fan of poems that make you laugh but not really nonsensical: they have to be witty and you have that in spades in Cope’s poetry. Some of them conjure a wry grin like Kindness to Animals with its irreverence for the subject of endangered animals and Another Christmas Poem and its dig at men’s expectations for the meal and then there are others that made me laugh out loud and these were mainly found in V, the fifth section of the book, by far and away my favourite.
There is directness in Copes’ poetry, a no-nonsense approach to delivering her views which I find refreshing. I also like the way that she rhymes her work and how she finishes her poems, providing a roundness that fills me with satisfaction. There are some poems in the collection where I could sense a sadness like For My Sister, Emigrating and Legacy and Names, which especially made me think hard about old bewildered people in their twilight years. And whilst I would hate to assume that she is a bit grumpy, there are strands of frustration, especially with the behaviour of men that permeate throughout in poems such as Men and Their Boring Arguments, the aforementioned Another Christmas Poem and Noises in the Night.
Humour is here throughout but it doesn’t totally disguise the lost love, the frustrated relationships and disappointment that life can provide as shown in the poem Advice for Young Women and Defining the Problem. What the humour does do, however, is show a vibrancy of mind and where it is not present, there are words that uplift in poems such as New Season with its suggestion of forging new paths and gaining new experiences and The Orange with its focus on simple pleasures.
I found the collection mostly good, sections II and III sometimes mildly baffling, but not sufficient to mar my reading.