New Season by Wendy Cope (born 1945) is taken from Serious Concerns (Faber 1992) which was her second collection of verse, the first being Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (Faber 1986). I was given Serious Concerns by a customer when I worked in Birmingham in the late 90s and I went on to buy the first collection on the strength of reading it. Attentive readers will recall that I included one of Wendy Cope’s seasonal verses as an Advent post last year. If I was to try to sum up Cope’s work, I couldn’t do better than Dr Rowan Williams who said “Wendy Cope is without doubt the wittiest of contemporary English poets, and says a lot of extremely serious things”.
It was very difficult to make a selection from Serious Concerns, but finally I plumped for this one because it serves to remind me of life’s endless possibilities. It is something that we all probably need reminding of from time to time; I know I do. It is slightly late in the season to use this one, as the chestnuts are already in leaf, but I hope you will overlook that minor technicality.
No coats today. Buds bulge on chestnut trees,
and on the doorstep of a big, old house
a young man stands and plays his flute.
I watch the silver notes fly up
and circle in blue sky above the traffic,
travelling where they will.
And suddenly this paving-stone
midway between my front door and the bus stop
is a starting-point.
From here I can go anywhere I choose.
Of course I also just wanted an excuse to feature the Posy Simmonds drawing of the very studious bear on the front cover. I think that you will find almost as many illustrators as poets mentioned on The Landing this month. But then that can’t be a bad thing, can it?
If you liked this poem here is more information on her work from the Poetry Archive web site.
I need to revisit Cope, to be honest; I was first drawn to her when I read her T.S.Eliot parodies in ‘Making Cocoa…’, but decided to give her a miss after reading ‘Serious Concerns’. However, I will say that I own a signed copy of ‘Serious Concerns’ that I managed to pick up from the Oxfam bookshop in St. Giles’, Oxford, for the insane price of £1.99. I don’t think that they had noticed it was signed, as otherwise they may have charged a lot more… Anyway, thank you!, as you’ve inspired me to give her another go!
I’m glad to be of poetic service. Sometimes I’ve put a writer aside only to find that something prompts me to try again and it proves worth the effort. I hope that you decide you like her work after all. All the best!