Love Poems You Wish You Had Written #1: with Wendy Cope

Scan of a Valentine greeting card dated 1909.

Scan of a Valentine greeting card dated 1909. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t posted anything recently about Poetry Under the Paintings, and since I just sent out the announcement for the Valentine’s edition to my local Facebook poets and poetry lovers, I thought I’d pass along to you the video I included for them. It’s one that I recorded on YouTube three years ago, but had never uploaded to the blog. In fact I had accidentally kept it marked private until after Valentine’s day that year, so I’m not sure how long it sulked alone in obscurity before I marked it public and it started getting views. It didn’t get many, but I was surprised to find a video curation site had picked it up where it garnered a few more hits. They even added some helpful links to the poet, Wendy Cope.

I made a few tweaks, cut out an intro that was too long, and now include it for you below, along with two other poems by Cope, who is fast becoming a new favorite of mine. She’s something of a poetic sprite at spoofing other poets, and their poems, and she brings a welcoming and comfortable playfulness to traditional forms. This one makes reference to the bargaining of hearts in Sir Philip Sydney‘s sonnet “Song From Arcadia.” You’ll recognize it from your 11th grade English lit class, I promise you. Wendy’s parody is written in the voice of the fictitious poet Jason Strugnell who writes for her in her collection Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis. I’ll include the text of both poems beneath the video.

And since the piece is a love poem, or perhaps an anti-love poem (which for some is even more appropriate for Valentines Day), I thought we should include a few more from this poet. The second video is from the king of online poetry readers, Tom O’Bedlam, of YouTube’s SpokeVerse channel. You’ll probably recognize his deep, distinctive voice. He’s got a brilliant knack for picking the right poems to record, and he’s been damned kind and helpful to me. His channel is a wealth of audio for poetry buffs, educators and lovers of the spoken word. If you haven’t already, please spend some time enjoying his work. You’ll thank me.Two Cures for Love Wendy Cope

The third and final video selection is of Wendy Cope herself reading an approachable, but much more serious poem entitled “Spared,” from her Two Cures for Love collection. This time I have included the WorldCat.org link so that you can look for the book in your local library, or failing to find it, encourage them to pick up a copy for their shelves. Again, you’ll find the text of the poem below the video.

If you enjoy these you can find several more by clicking here, here and here. That should get you nicely started on enjoying the works of Wendy Cope.

We usually meet at Faustina’s Gallery in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania on the second Thursday of each month at 7:00 pm. This time it will be the first Thursday in order to avoid messing up your date night on February 14th.  If you cannot join us, I’ll understand, but I’ll continue to update you from time to time here about our local activities. After all, a blogger formerly known as Angry Ricky actually did manage to make it one night before he headed overseas. Unfortunately I missed that meeting! I won’t let that happen again, so if you are swinging through central PA, give me a shout, or better yet, your best barbaric yawp!

More love poems, serious, spiteful and silly coming soon.

Strugnell’s Bargain
Wendy Cope

My true love hath my heart and I have hers:
We swapped last Tuesday and we felt elated
But now, whenever one of us refers
To “my heart,” things get rather complicated.
Just now, when she complained “My heart is racing,”
“You mean my heart is racing,” I replied.
“That’s what I said.” “You mean the heart replacing
Your heart my love.” “Oh piss off, Jake!” she cried.
I ask you, do you think Sir Philip Sydney
Got spoken to like that? And I suspect
If I threw in my liver and a kidney
She’d still address me with as scant respect.
Therefore do I revoke my opening line:
My love can keep her heart and I’ll have mine.

Song from Arcadia: “My True Love Hath My Heart”
Sir Phillip Sydney

My true-love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss;
There never was a bargain better driven.
His heart in me keeps me and him in one;
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his own;
I cherish his because in me it bides.
His heart his wound received from my sight;
My heart was wounded with his wounded heart;
For as from me on him his hurt did light,
So still, methought, in me his hurt did smart:
Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss,
My true love hath my heart and I have his.

Summer Villanelle
Wendy Cope

You know exactly what to do -
Your kiss your fingers, on my thigh -
I think of little else but you.
It’s bliss to have a lover who,
Touching one shoulder, makes me sigh -
You know exactly what to do.
You make me happy through and through,
The way the sun lights up the sky-
I think of little else but you.
I hardly sleep – an hour or two;
I can’t eat much and this is why-
You know exactly what to do.
The movie in my mind is blue -
As June runs into warm July
I think of little else but you.
But is it love? And is it true?
Who cares? This much I can’t deny;
You know exactly what to do;
I think of little else but you.

Spared
Wendy Cope

‘That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love…’

— Emily Dickinson

It wasn’t you, it wasn’t me,
Up there, two thousand feet above
A New York street. We’re safe and free,
A little while, to live and love,

Imagining what might have been –
The phone call from the blazing tower,
A last farewell on the machine,
While someone sleeps another hour,

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 there is.

30 thoughts on “Love Poems You Wish You Had Written #1: with Wendy Cope

  1. I love Wendy Cope’s work. She is sometimes seen as a humorous poet but even those poems that seem short and funny have real human dilemmas at their core. Great choices. I think I might use this idea for my blog as we come up to Valentine’s Day. Would you mind if I pinched it? We could compare choices….

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    • Yes, I found much depth in her short and pithy works, and a review or two that seemed to not “get” that. Feel free to lift whatever you fancy. I’d love to see what you come up with. :)

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  2. OMG, look what I’ve been missing out on! You’ve introduced me to TWO essential poets lately–Richard Blanco and Wendy Cope. Very different from each other, and both delightful. Thanks for these excellent readings (I especially enjoy what you’ve done with “Strugnell’s Bargain”).

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    • Aw, thank you! That was such a fun one to read! I have a William Stafford poem coming up soon. And I’m really glad you enjoyed Cope and Blanco. They were great discoveries for me too.

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    • Thank you, John. It really does make my day when I find things like that out, hearing that I introduced someone to a new artist, and that it brightened some part of someone’s day. :) Very gratifying.

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    • Ah, yes, I concur. Of course, I think it’s interesting that in his poem he keeps the “his.” I suppose this was tradition, in the way of Shakespeare’s Young Man poems, and yet there are plenty of sonnets who specifically mention females as objects of affection. But in Wendy’s poem, read by a female she changes it to “hers.” Hmmm just part of the mirroring?

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