I’ve always liked Wendy Cope’s poetry, but I do believe Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis may be one of the best volumes of poetry I have ever read (that wasn’t an anthology). In an era where rhyme and meter are frowned upon—unless it’s like Pam Ayres, ever-so-slightly twee—it’s a real delight to find Cope’s punch and satire funnelled through forms like the villanelle, triolet, and plain old couplets. I find her parodies or homages to either famous poets, famous poems, or oft-used styles brilliant in their execution and often hilarious—she takes subjects close to her heart and makes them approachable by including us in on the literary joke. Perhaps people who aren’t familiar with Christopher Smart or Wordsworth won’t be as amused, but I doubt they’d be reading her book anyway. She’s been compared to Tennyson and Larkin, but I would add W. S. Gilbert—with her own brand of snark and vulnerability.
“Each of these places holds something that I require for my well being, and I have happily allowed them to keep it for me. I’ll admit, I’m not sure I know these places for themselves, rather, I know them in the context of what I want or need them to be. Most of us move through many places in our lives, and only some remain with us. Something out there resonates with something in here.”
Back in September, one of my poems was published in an anthology put together by the Harwood Arts Center in Albuquerque called Looking Back to Place. I didn’t get to the launch party or even to see the volume until December, for obvious reasons, but now looking at the book, I am really proud to be included with such esteemed poets such as Lisa Gill, Robert Woltman, John Brandi, Don McIver, E.A. Mares, and Joy Harjo (plus my 8th grade teacher, Merimée Moffitt). For my first actual book publication, it’s not a bad start. This is a great read, obviously a bit skewed to the Southwest, but a collection of great technical variety. I especially love the way the contents are arranged. For example, the poem before mine shares with my poem the word “dogs” and with the one after it the word “doll”—the poems are arranged by shared words. I have never seen this done before, and agree with editor Susan McAllister, creating an “unexpected and lovely flow.” I was very surprised when I received word that one of my poems was going to be published, but it has been a precedent, the works of mine about place seem to be the most popular. “St Malo” is the poem, and I am still surprised it was chosen considering no one seems to know what it’s about. Obviously it’s about going to St Malo, Brittany, in April 2007, but I doubt that even my travelling companions could tell you what the heck I’m talking about in the poem, which is, er, probably for the best.