‘Tis the season to quote dreadful verse from carols no one ever wanted to hear, and dodging family members asking how you spent last year failing every single last one of your modules in college.
When I first encountered Wendy Cope at age thirteen, I was delighted by her absolute irreverence for the ‘poetic greats’. Her parodies lampoon everyone from T.S. Eliot, to Ted Hughes, to Seamus Heaney, and all the way back to Sir Philip Sydney, with a constant reminder that high art is nothing special. Cope’s approach to Christmas is thankfully just as fresh.
At a time of year when everything can become overly sentimental – profound words lost in tossed Hallmark cards – it is a parodist with a keen eye for observational humour that society needs. Cope’s Christmas Poems is a delightfully short collection. Beautifully presented in hardback with flowing illustrations by Michael Kirkham throughout, the collection is my preferred stocking filler for cynics and optimists alike. Through the characteristic turn of her last lines, “The cold winter air makes our hands and faces tingle / And happy families go to church and cheerily they mingle / And the whole business is unbelievably dreadful, if you’re single”, Christmas Poems diverges from the usual Christian and jolly Santa Claus rhetoric to heart wrenching yet humorous recognition for those who are alone at this time of year.
Published by Faber & Faber, Wendy Cope’s Christmas Poems is available now on Amazon and in all good book stores.