Category Archives: Wendy Cope

‘Spared’ by Wendy Cope

“That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love… ”
Emily Dickinson

It wasn’t you, it wasn’t me,
Up there, two thousand feet above
A New York street. We’re safe and free,
A little while, to live and love,

Imagining what might have been –
The phone-call from the blazing tower,
A last farewell on the machine,
While someone sleeps another hour,

Or worse, perhaps, to say goodbye
And listen to each other’s pain,
Send helpless love across the sky,
Knowing we’ll never meet again,

Or jump together, hand in hand,
To certain death. Spared all of this
For now, how well I understand
That love is all, is all there is.
 

This poem by Wendy Cope is one that she apparently wrote as a response to the atrocities of 9/11. I think it is a really special, beautiful poem and meditation on an unspeakably tragic event.

The poem expresses great sadness, but it is also triumphant; the conclusion of the poet’s musings is that “love is all, is all there is.” I love the inclusion of the quote from Emily Dickinson, as it reminds us that this is not a new revelation, but that the truth that “love is all” is something we have always known. Faced with inhuman acts of violence, we cannot help but feel our sense of love reinforced, because it is our natural reaction to such happenings to feel compassion, and the think about our own loved ones.

I love the way that Cope emphasises the idea of the mortality of each one of us in this poem. In the first stanza she talks about being “safe and free” as a survivor (“It wasn’t you, it wasn’t me”), but then she undercuts this feeling of being “Spared” with phrases such as “a little while” and “for now”; we are all mortal, she reminds us.

What is important in this poem is the love that triumphs over an act of evil. There is a sense of fervent admiration for those who have died, and who continued to love until the end (the “last farewell on the machine” and the “sending helpless love across the sky”, and even those who “Jump together… To certain death”). I also think the poem delivers a strong sense of the desire to make the most of life, particularly with the image of somebody who “sleeps another hour” and so misses a message of love…

I think this is such a touching poem; I hope you enjoy it!

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘Flowers’ by Wendy Cope

Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.The shop was closed. Or you had doubts –
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

Today, this poem reminded me of the final line of one of Philip Larkin’s: “What will survive of us is love” (that’s from An Arundel Tomb.)
Flowers is such a heartbreaking piece. Wendy Cope has an incredible ability to create witty, often funny poems that are also profoundly melancholy. I love the way she uses the simple language of grief and evocative short sentences here, such as “It made me smile and hug you then” and “Now I can only smile.” This poem illustrates so beautifully the way we remember the thoughtfulness, the intentions and attentions of our loved ones, and not the material objects they might lavish upon us. Flowers are a particularly appropriate metaphor here, I feel, because flowers last such a short time. In this poem, the person’s intention to buy flowers for the speaker, and his rather adorable self-conscious doubts that she would want his flowers, is what has endured — this is what will always make the speaker “smile”, even after the person has gone.
And I find this ending so sweet and deeply touching: “look, the flowers you nearly brought/ Have lasted all this while”.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh