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This review is taken from PN Review 184, Volume 35 Number 2, November - December 2008.

MEMORABLE SPEECH WENDY COPE, Two Cures for Love (Faber) £12.99

Wendy Cope made her highly acclaimed debut in 1986; twenty-two years later, this is her first Selected Poems, probably due to her Larkinesque rate of output (excepting children's verse, only two collections since Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis). Chronology, however, isn't the point of Two Cures for Love. The selection includes uncollected poems old and new interspersed among those from her three volumes. The poems are arranged thematically, with an exhaustive appendix of notes to make aspects of her work such as literary parodies and allusions, forms and contexts, more accessible. Though this may be advantageous for teachers and their pupils - a target audience explicitly stated in Cope's preface - it has its drawbacks: separating the poems into parodies, ekphrastic pieces, love poems etc. isolates the poems in their respective genres, limiting the degree to which they can respond to each other. This minimises the sense of variety and miscellaneousness that the organisation aims to enhance.

The copious (sorry) notes give dates of composition/publication and explanatory details, including translations of foreign phrases, brief biographies of figures like Kingsley Amis and John Berryman who make appearances, and personal comments about the poems. They have a school-teacher's fastidiousness, and can be didactic: 'Rondeau Redoublé' is called 'by the name of its form, to make sure people understand what it is'; 'Reading Scheme', a villanelle making fun of old learn-to-read books ('Here is Peter. Here is Jane. They like fun') uses 'this repetitive ...


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