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This review is taken from PN Review 89, Volume 19 Number 3, January - February 1993.

OCCASIONS Wendy Cope, Serious Concerns (Faber) £12.99, £4.99 pb
Ted Hughes, Rain-Charms for the Duchy and other poems (Faber) £12.99, £4.99 pb: Ltd Edition £75.00

Designated 'light' and 'occasional' respectively, these two collections have their work cut out for them. Wendy Cope's Serious Concerns, less reliant on pastiche than her previous collection, is uneven. The love poems incline to the 'men: can't live with/without them' stock, and skirt around an unlovely sentimentality, occasionally deflated, 'My angel, my darling, true love of my heart,/ Etcetera.' They are best summed up by her couplet 'Variation on Belloc's Fatigue':
       
I hardly ever tire of love or rhyme -
That's why I'm poor and have a rotten
   time.


The most successful poems are the funny ones. There are two nice retorts to critics of her 'humorous verse', ('Write to amuse? What an appalling suggestion!'), a rather cruel aside called and concerning 'Kindness to Animals', a good ape of Eliot, beginning 'The poets talk' and finishing,
       
How hard they think! How much they
   know!
They're happy. A cicada sings.
We women talk of other things.


and a nonsense poem sprung from a newpaper report concerning deChirico's 'The Uncertainty of the Poet'. She manages to craft with a variety of forms and if the joke works, the rhyme fits. The more serious of her concerns however are at times let down by a deprecating whimsy, too pat, too efficient.

Ted Hughes's first collection of laureate poems could be leavened by the odd whimsical moment. The first (and title) poem, ...


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