Wendy Cope
Wendy Cope, OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (born 21 July 1945) is an award-winning contemporary English poet. She read history at St Hilda's College, Oxford
St Hilda's College, Oxford
St Hilda's College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England.The college was founded in 1893 as a hall for women, and remained an all-women's college until 2006....

. She now lives in Ely
Ely, Cambridgeshire
Ely is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England, 14 miles north-northeast of Cambridge and about by road from London. It is built on a Lower Greensand island, which at a maximum elevation of is the highest land in the Fens...

 with the poet Lachlan Mackinnon
Lachlan Mackinnon
Lachlan Mackinnon is a contemporary Scottish poet, critic and literary journalist. He was born in Aberdeen and educated at Charterhouse and Oxford. He recently took early retirement from his job as a teacher of English at Winchester College and moved to Ely with his partner, the poet Wendy Cope...



Cope was born in Erith
Erith is a district of southeast London on the River Thames. Erith's town centre has undergone a series of modernisations since 1961.-Pre-medieval:...

, Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, and educated at Farringtons School, Chislehurst
Chislehurst is a suburban district in south-east London, England, and an electoral ward of the London Borough of Bromley. It is south-east of Charing Cross.-Toponymy:...

, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. Following her graduation from St Hilda's College, Cope spent fifteen years as a primary-school teacher. In 1981, she became Arts and Reviews editor for the Inner London Education Authority
Inner London Education Authority
The Inner London Education Authority was the education authority for the 12 inner London boroughs from 1965 until its abolition in 1990.-History:...

 magazine, Contact. Five years later she became a freelance writer and was a television critic for The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

magazine until 1990.

Four collections of her adult poetry have been published, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis in 1986, Serious Concerns in 1992, If I Don't Know in 2001, and Family Values in 2011. She has also edited several anthologies of comic verse and was a judge of the 2007 Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured of international renown and...


In 1998, she was voted the listeners' choice in a BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 poll to succeed Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes
Edward James Hughes OM , more commonly known as Ted Hughes, was an English poet and children's writer. Critics routinely rank him as one of the best poets of his generation. Hughes was British Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death.Hughes was married to American poet Sylvia Plath, from 1956 until...

 as Poet Laureate
Poet Laureate
A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for state occasions and other government events...

.The Guardian "Wendy Cope: I don't want to be laureate" 2 June 2008 When Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion
Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL is an English poet, novelist and biographer, who presided as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009.- Life and career :...

's term as Poet Laureate came to an end in 2009, Cope was again widely considered a popular candidate, although she believes the post should be discontinued.Carol Ann Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy, CBE, FRSL is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at the Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain's poet laureate in May 2009...

 succeeded Motion as Poet Laureate.

Cope was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours. In April 2011, the British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

 purchased Cope's archive including manuscripts, school reports and 40,000 emails, the largest email archive they have bought to date. The papers also includes 67 poetry notebooks and unpublished poems. Cope commented "I wanted to find a good home for my archive. The timing was dictated because we had to move home, so we needed some money to buy a house, and the space. So this was the moment. I asked Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion
Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL is an English poet, novelist and biographer, who presided as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009.- Life and career :...

 what I should do, and he told me someone to approach at the British Library. I wasn't sure they would want it, but they did." When the collection is catalogued and organised, the archive will be available to researchers.

Critical reception

Despite her slight output, her books have sold well and she has attracted a popular following with her lighthearted, often comical poetry, as well as achieving literary credibility winning two awards and making an award shortlist over a fourteen year period. She has a keen eye for the everyday, mundane aspects of English life, especially the desires, frustrations, hopes, confusions and emotions in intimate relationships.Profile at Poetry Archive Dr Rowan Williams
Rowan Williams
Rowan Douglas Williams FRSL, FBA, FLSW is an Anglican bishop, poet and theologian. He is the 104th and current Archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury and Primate of All England, offices he has held since early 2003.Williams was previously Bishop of Monmouth and...

 is a well known fan of her work, writing that: "Wendy Cope is without doubt the wittiest of contemporary English poets, and says a lot of extremely serious things".

In 2008 Cope's poem "After The Lunch" was used as the lyric of the song "Waterloo Bridge" by jazz composer and musician Jools Holland
Jools Holland
Julian Miles "Jools" Holland OBE, DL is an English pianist, bandleader, singer, composer, and television presenter. He was a founder of the band Squeeze and his work has involved him with many artists including Sting, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, The Who, David Gilmour and Bono.Holland is a...

 and singer Louise Marshall.


Some of her poems are written in the persona of a struggling male poet, Jake Strugnell, a slightly seedy figure from Tulse Hill
Tulse Hill
Tulse Hill is a district in the London Borough of Lambeth in South London, England. It lies to the south of Brixton, east of Brixton Hill, north of West Norwood and west of West Dulwich.-History:...

. She displays her talent for parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

with targets ranging from the sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney
Philip Sidney
Sir Philip Sidney was an English poet, courtier and soldier, and is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan Age...


My true love hath my heart and I have hers

We swapped last Tuesday and felt quite elated

But now whenever one of us refers

To 'my heart' things get rather complicated.

to reducing T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

's The Waste Land
The Waste Land
The Waste Land[A] is a 434-line[B] modernist poem by T. S. Eliot published in 1922. It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century." Despite the poem's obscurity—its shifts between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its...

to limerick
Limerick (poetry)
A limerick is a kind of a witty, humorous, or nonsense poem, especially one in five-line or meter with a strict rhyme scheme , which is sometimes obscene with humorous intent. The form can be found in England as of the early years of the 18th century...


In April one seldom feels cheerful;

Dry stones, sun and dust make me fearful;

Clairvoyants distress me,

Commuters depress me—

Met Stetson and gave him an earful.

Her style has been compared to that of John Betjeman
John Betjeman
Sir John Betjeman, CBE was an English poet, writer and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack".He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture...

 and Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin
Philip Arthur Larkin, CH, CBE, FRSL is widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century...


Cope's poetry for adults

  • (1986) Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (Faber and Faber
    Faber and Faber
    Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...

  • (1992) Serious Concerns (Faber and Faber)
  • (2001) If I Don't Know (Faber and Faber)
  • (2011) Family Values (Faber and Faber)

Collections of Cope's poetry for children

  • (1988) Twiddling Your Thumbs (Faber and Faber)
  • (1991) The River Girl (Faber and Faber)

Limited editions and selections

  • (1980) Across the City [limited edition] (Priapus Press)
  • (1984) Hope and the 42 (Other Branch Readings)
  • (1986) Poem from a Colour Chart of House Paints [limited edition] (Priapus Press)
  • (1988) Does She Like Word Games? (Anvil Press Poetry
    Anvil Press Poetry
    Anvil Press Poetry is an independent poetry publisher based in Greenwich, south-east London. It was founded in 1968 by Peter Jay and specialises in contemporary English poets, with a leavening of Irish and American, and in a range of translated poetry, from ancient classics to modern and...

  • (1988) Men and Their Boring Arguments (Wykeham)
  • (1994) The Squirrel and the Crow (Prospero Poets)
  • (2008) Two Cures for Love: Selected Poems 1979-2006 (Faber and Faber)

Other publications

  • (1989) Is That the New Moon? [editor] (HarperCollins
    HarperCollins is a publishing company owned by News Corporation. It is the combination of the publishers William Collins, Sons and Co Ltd, a British company, and Harper & Row, an American company, itself the result of an earlier merger of Harper & Brothers and Row, Peterson & Company. The worldwide...

  • (1993) The Orchard Book of Funny Poems [editor] (Orchard)
  • (1996) Casting a Spell [contributor] (Faber and Faber)
  • (1998) The Funny Side: 101 Humorous Poems [editor] (Faber and Faber)
  • (1999) The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories [editor] (Faber and Faber)
  • (2000) The Orchard Book of Funny Poems [editor] (Orchard)
  • (2001) Heaven on Earth: 101 Happy Poems [editor] (Faber and Faber)
  • (2002) Is That The New Moon?: Poems by Women Poets [selector] (Collins)
  • (2003) George Herbert: Verse and Prose [selector and introduction] (SPCK)

External links

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