Wendy Cope: Family Values
Pleasant but unchallenging poetry collection
For anyone new to Wendy Cope’s work, the opening gambit of ‘A Christmas Song’ may have you reeling. Its verse rattles along merrily with an almost painful naivety, leading you to wonder if this is a chronology featuring everything she’s ever written, including the really bad adolescent stuff. Thankfully, Family Values immediately slows down the pace and picks up a more stylish momentum as Cope goes through verses tackling themes of religion, childhood, death and companionship.
Her renowned wit is never laid on too thickly (ie you won’t be laughing out loud at anything here) as she prefers the gently caustic. In ‘My Funeral’, she wants anyone doing a reading to stick to their five minutes as she implores friends ‘not to use our relationship / As an excuse for an unsolicited ego-trip’ and ‘Another Valentine’ questions the whole ethos of forcing a specific day of romance down everyone’s throats. While there is nothing especially challenging in Family Values, Cope’s light trumpeting of universal emotions makes her a perfectly pleasing host.