Wendy Cope

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Wendy Cope

Born (1945-07-21) 21 July 1945 (age 76)
Erith, Kent, England[1]
EducationWest Lodge Preparatory School, Sidcup, Kent
Farrington's School, Chislehurst, Kent
Alma materSt Hilda's College, Oxford
Notable worksMaking Cocoa for Kingsley Amis
Serious Concerns
Notable awardsCholmondeley Award

American Academy of Arts and Letters

Michael Braude Award for Light Verse
SpouseLachlan Mackinnon

Wendy Cope, OBE (born 21 July 1945) is a contemporary English poet. She read history at St Hilda's College, Oxford. She now lives in Ely, Cambridgeshire, with her husband, the poet Lachlan Mackinnon.


Cope was born in Erith in Kent (now in the London Borough of Bexley), where her father Fred Cope was manager of the local department store, Hedley Mitchell. She was educated at West Lodge Preparatory School in Sidcup and Farrington's School, Chislehurst, both in Kent.[1] Following her graduation from St Hilda's College, Oxford Cope spent fifteen years as a primary-school teacher. In 1981, she became Arts and Reviews editor for the Inner London Education Authority magazine, Contact. Five years later she became a freelance writer and was a television critic for The Spectator magazine until 1990.

Five 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, Family Values in 2011, and Anecdotal Evidence in 2018. She has also edited several anthologies of comic verse and was a judge of the 2007 Man Booker Prize.

In 1998, she was voted the listeners' choice in a BBC Radio 4 poll to succeed Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate.[2] When Andrew Motion's term as Poet Laureate came to an end in 2009, Cope was again widely considered a popular candidate,[2] although she believes the post should be discontinued.[2][3] Carol Ann Duffy succeeded Motion as Poet Laureate.

Cope was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[4] In April 2011, the British Library 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 The papers also includes 67 poetry notebooks and unpublished poems.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 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.[5]

In 2013, after 19 years of living together, Cope married Lachlan Mackinnon in a register office, although she has stated that she would have preferred a civil partnership.[6]

In January 2019 she was the guest on BBC Radio 4's long-running programme Desert Island Discs. Her book choice was The Compleet Molesworth, her luxury item was writing materials and her favourite track was Bach's Concerto for Two Violins and Strings in D minor.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

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.[8] She has a keen eye for the everyday, mundane aspects of English life, especially the desires, frustrations, hopes, confusions and emotions in intimate relationships.[8] Dr Rowan Williams 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".[9]

Three haiku from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, where they are presented as being written by the (fictional) Tulse Hill poet Jason Strugnell, were set by the composer Colin Matthews in 1990 as Strugnell's Haiku.[10]

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 and singer Louise Marshall.[11]


Some of her poems are written in the persona of a struggling male poet, Jason Strugnell, a slightly seedy figure from Tulse Hill. She displays her talent for parody[8] with targets ranging from the sonnets of Sir Philip Sidney:

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's The Waste Land to limericks:

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 and Philip Larkin.


Cope's poetry for adults[edit]

  • (1986) Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (Faber and Faber)
  • (1992) Serious Concerns (Faber and Faber)
  • (2001) If I Don't Know (Faber and Faber)
  • (2011) Family Values (Faber and Faber)
  • (2018) Anecdotal Evidence (Faber and Faber)

Collections of Cope's poetry for children[edit]

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

Limited editions and selections[edit]

  • (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)
  • (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)
  • (2016) A Triumphant Yes Celandine Press 150 copies signed by the author

Other publications[edit]

  • (1989) Is That the New Moon? [editor] (HarperCollins)
  • (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)
  • (2014) Life, Love and The Archers: recollections, reviews and other prose (Hodder & Stoughton)


  1. ^ a b Lewis, Helen (3 December 2011). "Wendy Cope interview: "I can't die until I've sorted out the filing cabinets"". The New Statesman. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "The Guardian "Wendy Cope: I don't want to be laureate" 2 June 2008". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  3. ^ University Challenge – Jesus, Oxford vs Warwick. Part 2 of 3. on YouTube
  4. ^ "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 9.
  5. ^ The Guardian "Wendy Cope's archive sold to British Library" 20 April 2011
  6. ^ "Wendy Cope: 'We like being married but we should have had a choice'". The Guardian. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  7. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, Wendy Cope, poet". BBC. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Wendy Cope - poetryarchive.org". www.poetryarchive.org. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  9. ^ "poetryarchive.org" A Tour of the Archive with Dr Rowan Williams
  10. ^ Matthews, Colin (1990). Strugnell's Haiku. London: Faber Music. ISBN 9780571511730
  11. ^ Carey, Russell; Fairhill, Anne; Rank, Tom (12 November 2015). A/AS Level English Literature A for AQA Student Book. Cambridge University Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-110-7467-92-7.

External links[edit]