|Waiting our turn at the book table, with Dr Antonella Castelvedere and Dr Paolo Trimarco ...|
|Wendy Cope with Dr Paola Trimarco|
|Wendy Cope with Dr Paola Trimarco and David Gill|
|Book signing ...|
|... and conversations.|
|University Campus Suffolk, view from the Waterfront Building|
I have just come in from University Campus Suffolk on the Waterfront in Ipswich, where staff and students in the English subject area were hosting an event with Wendy Cope. The reading was open to all who had applied for a ticket, and it was good to be joined by members of my Gainsborough Community Library Writing Workshop and by friends from the monthly Poetry Cafe at Arlington's.
I have heard Wendy Cope once before - some years ago at the Hay Festival in a massive tent. This afternoon's event was a much more intimate occasion. The reading included a selection of Christmas poems, for example 'Cathedral Carol Service', to launch us into the festive season. I was interested to hear the poet introduce one of her poems with the almost thow-away line, 'It's a Sonnet - I think it's much easier if you know.' We also heard a Pantoum, and talked about Villanelles and Triolets in the post-reading question session.
Wendy Cope explained how she had used words from Alain de Botton as an epigraph, words about the artist Edward Hopper and his landscape of transit and threshold spaces 'in which we are aware of a particular kind of alienated poetry.' I found this very resonant with the themes in Edgelands by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley, a book I have just finished reading.
Wendy Cope listed A.E. Housman and the Russian, Marina Tsvataeva (through the translations by Elaine Feinstein) among her favourite fellow poets. She drew inspiration from their work, but added that it was too soon for critics to say who had been the major influences on her own output. There was plenty of time at the end for questions about form in poetry, about commissions and various aspects of the writing process.
Wendy Cope came armed with books, including Family Values (Faber 2011), and there was a steady stream of enthusiastic followers at the book table. Thank you to all concerned for a stimulating afternoon - and to Tom Owens for his photographs of the event, which you will find here.
*Postscript: Wendy Cope mentioned Valerie Eliot, wife of T.S. Eliot, who has just died ...