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This review is taken from PN Review 200, Volume 37 Number 6, June - July 2011.

BETWEEN HEART AND HEAD WENDY COPE, Family Values (Faber) £12.99

The longer one waits for something, the greater the danger that one will be disappointed when it arrives. I started to read Wendy Cope's new book nervously - what if it wasn't as good as her others? Happily, Family Values reminded me why Cope is my favourite living poet by a considerable distance. Her poems are moving, memorable, funny, clever; they alert readers to what it means to be human. Some of the best poems in this collection explore the repercussions of emotionally abusive parenting:

You're not allowed to wonder if it's true: She loves you very much. She tells you so.
She is the one who knows what's best for you.
She tells you what to do and where to go.
                                                            ('You're Not Allowed')

Cope achieves a perfect balance between heart and head. Her more personal poems are deeply felt, but the emotion is all the more powerful for being restrained by the paired disciplines of cautious intelligence and traditional form. One of the best poems in the book was inspired by the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001:

...Or worse, perhaps, to say goodbye
And listen to each other's pain,
Send helpless love across the sky,
Knowing we'll never meet again,

Or jump together, hand in hand,
To certain death. Spared all of this
For now, how well I understand
That love is all, is all ...


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