Wendy Cope

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.

New Season

book jacket with teddy bear

I also love the jacket..

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.


Advent Reading Challenge: updated Dickens

5th December

Mrs Scrooge: A Christmas Tale by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Posy Simmonds (Picador, 2009)

Mrs Scrooge

Mrs Scrooge and a rather jolly ghost

A fresh spin on a Christmas classic and a welcome addition to our ever-growing collection of seasonal literature. I try to buy something new each year and as far as possible I choose a book that will appeal to adults and children alike. This entertaining story certainly fits the bill and Posy Simmonds’ illustrations are a humorous delight.

I have quoted a few lines from the story below, but without, I hope spoiling the story for anyone new to this quirky tale. Mrs Scrooge is  a widow (her husband ‘doornail dead’) who lives with her cat Catchit and is an avowed enemy of consumerism and champion of the environment and of free range turkeys:

‘She hated waste, consumerism, Mrs Scrooge, foraged in the London parks for chestnuts, mushrooms, blackberries, ate leftovers, recycled, mended, passed on, purchased secondhand, turned the heating down and put on layers, walked everywhere, drank tap water, used public libraries, possessed a wind-up radio, switched off lights, lit candles (darkness is cheap and Mrs Scrooge liked it) and would not spend one penny on a plastic bag.’

See what happens when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future make their appearance. You will not be disappointed and may even shed a tear…